LAHORE - A cold war among top officers of the provincial police has virtually jeopardized the country’s largest law enforcement agency amid political uncertainty.

Punjab Police Inspector General Arif Nawaz Khan and several seasoned officers are one side while Additional Inspector General Abubakar Khuda Bukhsh is leading the rival group.

Most interestingly, both the groups are very close to the Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif. According to highly-placed sources, some controversial inquiry reports against high-ranking officers caused the rare rift in the recent past.

Some police officers, who spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity, revealed that the tussle was growing amid political uncertainty leading up to the caretaker setup ahead of the general elections 2018.

An official said that two latest policy decisions added “fuel to the fire” although the ‘cold war’ is not new. The top officers split over the findings of some departmental inquiries initiated against a few senior officers on the orders of CM Shehbaz Sharif this year.

A source familiar with the development claimed that the findings of two high-level inquiries conducted under the supervision of Additional IG Abubakar Khuda Bukhsh caused embarrassment to the high-ranking officers.

 “Both the inquiries were not conducted on merit. In fact, the inquiry officer tried to settle score against some officers since he had personal grudge against them,” an official claimed requesting his name not to be mentioned. Mr Bukhsh was not available for his comments.

In the recent past, inquiry committees headed by Mr Bukhsh concluded that the police shooting in Kasur was fake encounter and the young man killed by police was innocent.

In another inquiry initiated against some senior officers, Mr Bukhsh recommended “registration of a criminal case” and initiation of departmental action against the police officers.

Last month, Additional IG (Investigation) Bukhsh was removed from his post reportedly after his differences with Punjab Inspector General of Police Arif Nawaz Khan but reinstated following court orders.

Being head of the investigation police, Mr Bukhsh had also recommended that section 311 of the Pakistan Penal Code should be added in the fake encounter case so that the officials found involved in the killing could not flee punishment.

The Section 311 authorizes a court to punish an offender even if the person is granted pardon by the victim’s family. The case was to the Investigation Branch after reports suggested that Mudassir was allegedly killed in a staged encounter in Iman Fatima rape and murder case in Kasur. The then district police officer SSP Ali Nasir Rizvi was also named in the case but he never appeared before the joint investigation team.

Khuda Bukhsh had recommended stern action against the policemen responsible for the extrajudicial killing of Mudassir. The police chief was left with no other choice except to seek an opinion from other senior police officers who contradicted the findings. Reportedly, IGP Arif Nawaz and Khuda Bukhsh argued over strict punishment to police officers. Later, the chief minister transferred Mr Bukhsh on the request of the police chief.

A couple of months ago, Mr Bukhsh headed another inquiry committee constituted on the instructions of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif on the complaint of a widow. Fozia Ajmal had appeared before the chief minister in person and requested for an impartial inquiry against the Lahore CCPO and his team.

She alleged that CCPO Amin Wains and the then Lahore SP CIA Omar Virk played dubious role in the transfer of a commercial property that belonged to her late husband.

The complainant also claimed that Wains and Virk used their influence to get a decision in the favour of her rival parties. Sheikh Ajmal, husband of the lady, owned a chain of departmental stores in different parts of Lahore including Iqbal Town, West Wood Colony, and Jain Mandir. The lady said that she had to suffer huge financial losses because of the “dubious financial transactions” to the so-called shareholders.

Mr Bukhsh in his inquiry report concluded that the allegations against the police officers were true. The inquiry officer also recommended to the chief minister that a criminal case should be registered and departmental action should be taken against the officers.

A few police officers rejected the inquiry report and they immediately brought the matter into the notice of the Punjab chief minister and the Inspector General of Police. They also raised questions over the authenticity of the findings stating that the inquiry was conducted by a junior officer against a senior one and the officers were not given an opportunity to explain their position.

In 2015, Additional IG Bukhsh was removed from the post of regional police officer after the biggest child abuse scandal surfaced under his command in Kasur district of the Punjab province. Early this year, Mr Bukhsh was appointed as Head of the Joint Investigation Team to probe rape and murder case of Zainab in Kasur. But he was replaced by chief minister after father of the victim raised objections.

Under present circumstances, according to officials, the police chief has asked the Punjab chief minister that the matter should be re-examined before jumping to the conclusion. The IGP has also proposed the names a few senior most officers for reinvestigation.

While the chief minister is yet to decide about the fate of the police officers found guilty in the latest inquiries, uncertainty has gripped the police hierarchy. The tension is rising and tussle is badly affecting the working of the provincial police department.