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‘Interim Punjab government and dubious bureaucratic reshuffle’

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The people of Pakistan are expecting third consecutive country polls on July 25, the third smooth transition of power since 2008, to be held under the watch of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and unanimously picked interim prime minister and chief ministers.

As the interim governments have come to power and new administrative moves are being played, the international watchdogs, media and the state institutions are also keeping an eye on each and every move of pre-poll activities.

The ECP and the interim governments have been repeatedly issuing statements that the elections will be held in a transparent manner.

But, if one takes a look at the recent reshuffle in the Punjab police keeping in view the political significance of Punjab, it is crystal clear that the reshuffle is apparently politically motivated and based on the criterion of ‘liking’ and ‘disliking’.

The requisition of 18 senior police officers ranking from BS-19 to BS-21 by the Establishment Division Islamabad on the request of the Punjab government and large-scale reshuffle of officers in the nine regions and 36 districts of the province without any criteria is an eye-opener for the watchdogs.

Supposedly if the real competition is to be assumed between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, the situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Punjab will be complex in the sense that both parties are trying to gain sympathy from certain quarters of bureaucracy.

If Punjab is considered setting the base for any powerful regime, both parties seem counter checking the administrative moves.

The close quarters in the Punjab government and the Punjab police raise eyebrows over the new choices and opine that the former Shehbaz-led regime has either managed to win hearts of police and bureaucracy under the umbrella of the interim regime led Dr Hassan Askari or the bureaucratic hierarchy is befooling the interim regime.

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Similarly, the surrendering of senior 10 Pakistan Administrative Group officers working as secretaries, commissioners to the federal government and massive shuffles in the field with picking pro-PML-N civil servants is also being seen as discriminative move, tainting the slogan of fair and free elections.

In principle, Punjab Chief Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani and Inspector General of Punjab Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam, who are new entrants in Punjab’s administration, should have consulted intelligence reports, the annual confidential reports and the officers who have impeccable repute and from notables of the province. But they did not do it and rather relied on their core team.

For example IG Imam, whose command has not been welcomed by four senior Additional IGs as they were senior to him, had consulted former Capital City Police Officer Lahore Muhammad Pervez Rathore (who remained  acting chairman of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) and ex-IG National Highways & Motorways Police IG Zulfiqar Cheema (who is currently working as Chairman National, Vocational & Technical Training Commission) to seek repute of police officers serving in Punjab irrespective of the fact that both officers always got blessings of PML-N Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif in terms of high-profile postings in service and after retirement. Later, the IG met former IGP Mushtaq Sokehra, who got the blessing of PML-N government in the result of getting posted as the Federal Tax Ombudsmen, and also sought his input.

Adding insult to injury, the IG formed a core team of three senior police officers, who are considered close to him and Mr Cheema, to finalize names of field officers in Punjab. Additional IG B A Nasir (now expected CCPO Lahore), DIG Farooq Mazhar (now expected Additional IG Special Branch Punjab) and DIG Headquarter CPO Punjab Sahibzada Shahzada Sultan made key changes in the already finalized list.

The surrendering of few goods police officers to the ED and posting some controversial officers in field has not been termed a policy of merit especially when the transparency and free and fair elections is a ‘slogan’ being raised by the ECP and interim governments nowadays.

For example, the transfer of SSP Rana Ayyaz Saleem, who is considered a neutral and professional officer with clean financial integrity, is being seen as a politically motivated transfer as his only sin is that he is the close relative of former Law Minister and PML-N leader Rana Sana Ullah Khan. Similarly, the transfer of Additional IG Operations Punjab Aamir Zulfiqar Khan, who is considered an upright, honest and professional police officer in the civil service, outside Punjab also seems controversial as police circles believe that the members of the IG’s core team have some professional grudges against Mr Khan. Mr Khan most of the time remained sidelined and was victimized in the tenure of Shehbaz-led regime.

SSP Jehanzeb Nazir Khan, who is also considered a professional and honest officer, has been shown the door for falling in the bracket of disliked officers. Furthermore, DIGs Riffat Mukhtar and Dr Akhtar Abbas and SSP Syed Ali Mohsin, who have also been kicked out of the province, had been enjoying good repute.

On the other hand, the lucrative field postings of DIGs Zulfiqar Hameed, Sohail Habib Tajik, Munir Masood Marth, Dr Moeen Masood and SSPs Shehzad Akbar, Muntazir Mehdi, Asad Sarfraz, Zahid Nawaz Marwat and others also raise objections over the transparency as these officers remained on key posts in the tenure of PML-N.

The core team, however, also approved the names of some well-reputed officers for field postings. The prominent among them are Additional IG Abu Bakar Khuda Baskh, DIGs Captain (retired) Muhammad Faisal Rana, Sultan Ahmad Ch, Fiaz Ahmad Dev and SSP Abdul Ghaffar Qaisrani.

The nutshell of the debate apparently establishes that the lists were not provided by federal intelligence agencies, but by the caretaker governments themselves with no set criteria.

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