LAHORE - Punjab police Chief Khan Baig is fighting to save his position in the face of seething anger from senior and junior officers since the Muzaffargarh rape incident that led to the removal of several cops in the already demoralized department.
The anger and disillusionment stems from the fact that the Punjab chief minister himself interviews, short-lists, and orders the postings of police officers (RPOs and DPOs) while the department’s autonomy has been compromised.
Discipline has become a worry and some cops fear open rebellion in the middle ranks of officers as rumours circulate that the cops are questioning whether Khan Baig should remain in his job.
Addressing the regional police officers (RPOs) conference at the central police office on Saturday, the IGP said, “Police officers should be on the same page as an organized force and they should come forward in practical fields to avert the Muzaffargarh (like) incidents in future.”
The Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) officers whisper that the police chief has put the integrity of the department at stake only to retain his position. If not all but many officers were demanding that the IGP should get much tougher with the provincial government to stop political interference in the policing particularly in administrative affairs.
“Regrettably, when the judiciary comes hard on the police, the officers are taken to task in the courts. The apex courts never summons the Chief Minister over wrongdoings,” an officer commented on the condition of anonymity.
While officers consider such ‘actions’ as a direct interference in the police affairs some political leaders believe the Chief Minister has the authority to pick the men of his own choice to improve things at grass-root level.
Last week, the Chief Minister visited family of the rape victim who set herself on fire after being denied justice in Muzaffargarh district. Shahbaz Sharif suspended from service the district police officer and also reprimanded and removed the regional police officer. Also, the CM ordered arrest of the DSP, SHO and the in-charge investigation concerned. The episode exposed real face of the policing in the Punjab. Interestingly, the DPO and RPO were posted by no other than the CM himself while the SHO and DSP were posted on political recommendations as well. Whenever a crisis develops, the police are blamed for the sake of political mileage.
Following sectarian violence in Rawalpindi last year, IGP Khan Baig had accepted the police negligence and changed nearly the entire top-level police bureaucracy. The RPO, CPO, and SSP (Operation) were removed from their posts.
In Lahore, the same IGP had removed the entire police pecking order in the backdrop of Josef Colony riots in which dozens of residences of the Christians were torched.
A few junior officers rule out any improvement in the existing police culture unless the police are given freehand.
They complained that the provincial government transfers and posts officers keeping in view their political affiliation rather than professional capability.
Even the station house officers and sub-divisional police officers are posted on the recommendation of the ministers and other political elite.
While the IGP is struggling to keep himself in the good books of the Chief Minister, some officers want a powerful chief to lead the largest law enforcing agency with more than 180,000 trained and armed personnel. A retired inspector general of police says postings on political grounds always create mess and give bad name to the department. The police must be purged from politics if the rulers really want to reform the police. Khan Baig’s problems have been magnified by a groundswell of unprecedented criticism from the public, questioning both the police competence and the highhandedness seen at police station level.