LAHORE - Over two dozen members of the Hazara community, who lost their lives in Tuesday’s suicide strike in Quetta, were being buried in the Balochistan’s Hazara Town graveyard amid touching scenes on Saturday’s afternoon. The terror assault not only sent shocking waves across the country but sorrow and grief also overlapped the national horizon as TV news channels covered the tragedy in depth for three consecutive days.
All of a sudden, on Saturday evening, several news channels suspended that coverage and started airing the ‘warm welcome’ given to influential politician Khurram Dastgir Khan as he arrived in his native town in Gujranwala after becoming federal minister for trade.
Several gunmen riding on four-wheel drives and carrying automatic assault rifles accompanied the minister as his motorcade passed through the routes in Gujranwala city. The gunmen continued aerial firing in the presence of police protocol to ‘pay homage’ to the politician after he was given the portfolio of the federal minister in the insurgency-infested state, also confronting worst type of financial crises.
The heavy gunfire triggered horror and fear in the entire city. There were dozens of policemen including senior officers present at the site but there were silent spectators. None of them had the courage to act against the violators because they are given key postings there on the recommendation of the same minister.
As the news channels continued grilling the powerful politicians, the Punjab government was left with other choice except to control the damage. The PML-N’s media managers came into action and informed the media outlets that the Punjab Chief Minister has taken notice of the incident.
Though the display of weapons in public is banned in the province and as per the law the police are bound to take strict action against the accused found involved in aerial firing, the district police officer (DPO) and regional police officer (RPO) in Gujranwala also preferred to stay silent instead of challenging the powerful minister. Insiders say, the RPO and DPO are given the top postings on the recommendations of the same minister. The CM has taken notice of the incident but no action has been taken against the minister yet. Obviously, no one in the police department wants to lose his lucrative posting by challenging the influential man. Had it happened at the wedding party of a poor man in the Punjab, the gunmen would have been declared as robbers by the same police.
In their campaign manifesto, the PML-N had pledged the much-needed police reforms. Under the present scenario where politicians are virtually running the affairs of the police department, the talks of change in police culture (Thana culture) seems unrealistic. This policy also indicates that the PML-N leadership is no more serious in bringing positive changes to improve the police working. Why the PM is silent over this episode involving his cabinet minister and why the Punjab IGP Khan Baig is helpless to ensure action against him? Police sources say most of the postings and transfers are being ordered to entertain the politicians.
The DPOs and RPOs are appointed by the Chief Minister himself while the DSPs and SHOs are posted on the orders of ministers and influential politicians. Even the blue-eyed of the members of the provincial assembly are being accommodated in the Punjab police. Ironically, according to Punjab Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah, it is the right of the politicians to get the police officials posted at the places of their own choice since they are public representatives.
Every IGP plays the role of a dispatcher only under this system where the politicians are all in all. Some police officers consider such actions as a direct interference into the affairs of the department. Insiders say that the PML-N orders the transfers and postings of top police officers keeping in view their political connections. So, many officers serving on key posts in the Punjab province are more loyal to the politicians rather than their own department.
During informal chat, a retired inspector general of police, who severed in Punjab for a few years, was of the view that postings on political grounds always create mess and give bad name to the department besides damaging the working of the law enforcing agency. The governance cannot be improved until and unless honest officers are posted purely on merit. The police must be purged from politics.
The PM must sack this minister to show the public that his government is really wanted to introduce reforms in the corruption-riddled police.