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Govt removes Punjab IG, police reforms head ‘resigns’

Dawn 2018-10-10 06:53:37

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Tuesday removed the Punjab inspector general of police (IG) and subsequent reports, unconfirmed ones, about the resignation of the much-hailed police reforms commissioner added to the complexity of the situation.

Amjad Javed Saleemi replaced Mohammad Tahir as Punjab IG in a surprise move that sources tried to explain by a variety of theories. Tahir was in the post for only four weeks. Later on, a senior police official tweeted that Nasir Durrani, head of police reforms commission and a favourite with Prime Minister Imran Khan, had stepped down.

Mr Durrani’s cellphone was off, which was unusual, and there was no immediate confirmation whether he had resigned. Police officers close to him told Dawn in Lahore that Mr Durrani appeared upset in the wake of the news about Mr Tahir’s departure from IG’s office.

Mohammad Tahir’s removal is said to have come about after a growing realisation in the PTI circles that he was unable to carry out the task required of him by the rulers during the tone-setting period of the Imran government.

However, the Election Commis­sion of Pakistan suspended the notification regarding the IG’s replacement, citing it as a violation of the ECP directive barring transfer and posting of officials before the Oct 14 by-elections.

ECP suspends notification, seeks explanation from establishment secretary

In a letter sent to the establishment division just hours after the issuance of the notification, the Director General (Elections) of the ECP, Chaudhry Nadeem Qasim, sought an explanation from the establishment division secretary within two days as to why the Sept 3 instructions regarding transfers and postings of officials had not been complied with.

According to Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, the Punjab police chief had been replaced because of his “failure to follow directives of the provincial authorities”. He added: “The IG was not implementing the directives. We have sent a message to the bureaucracy that the PTI government means business.”

Sources said that IG Tahir was being pressured by the provincial authorities into transferring some police officers — a move he had resisted in the wake of the ECP directives.

A senior official privy to the information said the removal of the IG just a month after his appointment sent a wave of resentment among the police community. The situation worsened further when the social media was flooded with unconfirmed reports about the resignation of former police chief of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and chairman of the Punjab Police Reform Commission Nasir Durrani in protest against the sudden removal of Punjab IG Muhammad Tahir, he said.

The official added that Mr Durrani had expressed his displeasure on the government decision while sharing his views with his subordinate officers at his GOR-I Commission Office. “Normally, he used to stay at his office till evening, but on hearing about removal of the IG, he was looking so depressed that he left his office at 2pm,” the official explained.

In a tweet, former IG of Punjab Khwaja Khalid Farooq stated: “Nasir Khan Durrani tenders his resignation as chairman of Police Reforms commission Punjab probably due to premature transfer of IG Punjab.”

For Punjab IG Mohammad Tahir, it was the second change in two months as earlier he had been serving as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s inspector general of police.

The cabinet secretariat’s notification announced the change “with immediate effect and until further orders”. No reason for the transfer was mentioned in the notification.

An official privy to the development said IG Mohammad Tahir and the PTI governments, both the federal and Punjab, were not on good terms for the past couple of weeks. He said the IGP had received instruction to transfer five District Police Officers (DPOs) of the province, including one from southern Punjab and three from central Punjab. In addition, he said, the police chief was under immense pressure by the Punjab government for the appointment of a police officer as DPO Gujrat. However, he refused to oblige the government, citing reasons including the mandatory approval of the ECP in view of the by-elections.

The government was unhappy over the “justifications” presented by the IGP Punjab.

Recently, the official said, the federal government asked the IG to remove from current postings all those police officers who were involved in the 2014 Model Town killings.

The Punjab police chief again resisted the move on the ground that the case was pending before a court of law and the removal would be against the spirit of justice and surely demoralise the entire force. On the insistence of the authorities, however, he transferred some of them and assigned them duties in some other districts.

This further irked the federal government. The two happenings widened the differences between Mohammad Tahir and the ruling party in both the federal and provincial governments, leading to the removal of the IG, said the official.

According to the government notification, which was later suspended by the ECP, Amjad Javed Saleemi, a BS-22 officer, who had been serving as the commandant of the National Police Academy until recently, was appointed Punjab’s inspector general of police in place of Mohammad Tahir. Mr Saleemi was transferred from Sindh and posted to the National Police Academy only last month.

Suspension of the notification simply means that Mr Tahir has been reinstated as the Punjab police chief.

Although the ECP’s intervention has put on hold the notification for replacement of Punjab’s IG for now, the bar will be short-lived as the ban on postings and transfers would go after the Oct 14 by-elections.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2018