PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan on Saturday suspended six officials of the excise and taxation department and ordered an inquiry against them after they detained a photographer affiliated with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf for filming the excise police station here with a drone without permission.

Sources in the PTI told Dawn that the detainee, Tariq Khan, was filming the road project for the local government department when excise officials detained him and deleted the footage.

A notification issued by the director-general (excise and taxation) said that the services of five officials of the N-4 Mobile Squad, including assistant sub-inspectors Ali Munawar and Sarbiland Khan and constables Syed Mohisn Ali Shah,

Sajjad Hanif and Sardar Ali had been placed under suspension on ‘public complaints and subsequent surprise visit of the chief minister’ to the excise police station.

Orders inquiry against them as drone operator held for filming excise police station in Peshawar

The notification said that excise and taxation officer Masoodul Haq had been nominated as the inquiry officer for the incident, who would submit the inquiry report to the DG within 10 days.

Another notification was also issued declaring, “Consequent upon public complaints and direction of competent authority, the services of Mr Azlan Aslam, additional SHO of the Excise Police Station, have been hereby placed under suspension with an immediate effect in the best public interest.”

It added that director (registration) at the excise and taxation department Sufeyan Haqqani had been nominated inquiry officer for the matter and produce a fact-finding report within 10 days.

Two senior excise officials confirmed the suspension of officials over the arrest of the PTI-affiliated photographer.

One of them told Dawn on condition of anonymity that the photographer used a drone camera to film the area, including the excise police station located next to the Motorway.

He said that when the officials detained the photographer, he contacted the chief minister, who rushed to the excise police station and got him freed before ordering the suspension of staff members.

The official said that since the department officials had been placed on high alert since the April 18 killing of the two excise officials in Dera Ismail Khan, whose responsibility was claimed by the outlawed terror outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, they detained the drone operator.

He also said that the authorities had issued threat alerts to the excise police stations in Peshawar and Mardan in the recent past and therefore, the photographer was taking into custody over security concerns.

The other official confirmed the sequence of events and said the detained person had no permission to operate drone in the area.

He also wondered why the chief minister went all the way to the police station to get the photographer affiliated with his party and said such moves would demoralise officials of the department.

Meanwhile, a PTI insider told Dawn that the photographer in question worked for the ruling party’s social media team as well as the policy and reform unit of the local government and rural development department to highlight its projects.

He said that the excise officials detained the photographer and made him delete the footage.

The source said after the arrest, the photographer contacted the head of the PTI’s provincial social media team, who complained to Chief Minister Mahmood Khan about it.

He added that the chief minister, who was on the way to Peshawar from hometown Swat on the Motorway, went straight to the excise police station and asked its officials why they ‘took the law into their own hands’ instead of informing the local police about the incident.

The source claimed that the chief minister also wondered why the excise officials didn’t ask the local government department about the photographer before detaining him and deleting the drone footage.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2022

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