Islamabad - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Thursday issued notices to secretaries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Establishment Division and DG FIA in a petition filed against the disciplinary proceedings against former head of federal police Aftab Cheema and former Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Muhammad Ali Nekukara. A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Athar Minallah also directed the respondents to submit their reply in this matter within ten days.

The court issued these notices while hearing a petition moved by the four former Inspector Generals (IGs), including Iftikhar Rasheed, Afzal Ali Shigri, Tariq Pervez and Shaukat Javed. In the petition, they made Secretary Establishment, Secretary Ministry of Interior, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Foreign Secretary, Muhamad Akbar Khan Hoti, Director General Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as respondents.

They stated in the petition that Nekokara was dismissed from the Police Service of Pakistan despite his 15-year unblemished record of meritorious service on mala fide and malicious charges of misconduct on the basis of a charge sheet issued by Respondent No. 3 pursuant to the E&D Rules.

The petitioners added that notwithstanding his outstanding and distinguished career due to which he was selected and posted as Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP Operations) Islamabad, he has been charged and punished for misconduct, when the only crime that he had committed was to share his honest professional judgment with Respondent 2 and 6 during Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) long march and sit-in in Islamabad in August 2014.

They continued that Aftab Cheema is also an accomplished and dedicated officer of the Police Service of Pakistan, against whom disciplinary proceedings have been initiated on the basis of a charge sheet issued by Respondent No. 4 pursuant to the E&D Rules. In view of his impeccable service record, Cheema was selected and posted as Inspector General of Police Islamabad.

Petitioners contended that the Respondents 1 and 2 are penalising and persecuting Aftab Cheema because he continued to object to interference of Respondent No. 2 with operational matters and issuance of direct orders to his subordinates in breach of the legal chain-of-command during the sit-in and asked to be relieved of command if the federal government and Respondent No. 2 were unwilling to allow him to discharge his duties in a non-partisan manner with autonomy and professionalism. The former IGs adopted before the court that the long march and Dharna were predominantly a political challenge mounted by PTI and PAT against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that is presently in power and controls the federal government.

“A linked and ancillary aspect of the challenge was legal and administrative i.e. maintenance of law and order while PTI and PAT exercised their right to protest and agitation against PML-N. This was the responsibility of, inter alia, Respondents No 2, 5 and 6, who as public servants and representatives of the state were required to strike a balance between the individual and collective rights of protesters to exercise their fundamental rights versus the individual and collective rights of all other residents of Islamabad to continue to enjoy their fundamental rights while the protests continued,” maintained the petitioners.

They added that in striking such balance, the civil administration of Islamabad and the police force was under a solemn obligation to protect the lives, liberties and safety of all citizens, to ensure that the authority of the state was not undermined, and in exercising their rights and freedoms, the protesters were not allowed to take law into their own hands. Even while PML-N and the political masters of the federal government might have had a partisan interest in using strong-arm measures to coerce and oust the protesters from Constitutional Avenue/Red Zone and Islamabad, Respondents No 2, 5 and 6, being servants of the state and not the PML-N, were obliged to exercise the powers vested in them under law in a fair, just and reasonable manner to uphold the rights of all citizens (protesters and non-protesters) and undertake crowd control and maintenance of public order accordingly.

They argued that even though they possessed the power of the state to use force against the crowd, such power came along with the responsibility to exercise it in accordance with their professional judgment and law, and not on the basis of the whims of the political party in control of the federal government.

The former IGs contended that the choice before Respondents No. 5 and 6 during the Dharna was to exhibit allegiance to rule of law, and discharge their duties and exercise their authority as fiduciaries responsible to protect the citizens or allow Respondent 2 to usurp their authority and render their professional judgment and autonomy subservient to the will of the political regime controlling Respondent No. 2.

They were of the view that as Respondents No. 5 and 6 abided by the mandate of law, resolved to follow only legal orders, and refused to suspend professional judgment in acting to mechanically discharge any orders received from the Federal Government, they are being persecuted with the object of making their personal story a strong deterrent for all officers of the police force who might have qualms about executing illegal orders and outsourcing their legal authority to the reigning political master.

Therefore, they requested the court to graciously declare and direct that the officers of police service and the civil service more generally are under a solemn duty to exercise their authority and discretion through application of mind in view of relevant legal considerations, which exclude extraneous considerations such as courting the pleasure of the political party in control of the Federal Government or the prospective media commentary on the exercise of authority and discretion by the officers.

They also prayed to the court that the disciplinary proceedings initiated against Muhammad Ali Nekokara and Aftab Cheema, the show cause notices issued and all actions taken and decisions reached on the basis of such proceedings and show cause notices are illegal, ultra vires of the Constitution and the law and void ab initio.

Petitioners added that the court is further requested to recommend initiation of disciplinary and penal action against public office holders who usurped the authority and discretion of civil servants during the Dharna, attempted to politicize the non-partisan civil services of the state and prevented officers from exercising their authority in accordance with law and their conscience.