LAHORE - Several officers of Police Service of Pakistan last week appeared before the Punjab chief minister and reportedly they were interviewed for new postings as district or regional police officers.

It was unclear yet whether they were called by the CM office or the police department forwarded their names. During interviews, according to insiders, the officers were looking confident like they were on the day when they had appeared for an interview after success in CSS exam.

CM Shehbaz Sharif himself interviews police officers before “ordering” their postings on key slots in the province. Of course, he himself suspends the same officers when they put his government in trouble by doing ‘Police Gardi’ or any other wrongdoing.

The provincial government claims 100 per cent merit policy in government departments but the ground situation tells the other side of the story. For an instance, the provincial government up-graded a post to accommodate one DIG rank officer. He was posted on the post of SSP and later an officer of the SSP rank was posted on the same slot. Similarly, some SSPs are working on the posts of DIGs

Those who appeared before the chief minister to get lucrative posts included DIG Shahzad Sultan, Sohail Habib Tajik, Raja Riffat Mukhtar, Syed Khurram Ali, Dr Moeen Masood, and Afzal Mahmood. SSP Ashfaq Ahmed, Rana Shahzad Akbar and Azhar Ikram were also among those interviewed.

A few police officers who spoke to The Nation on the condition of anonymity said they were denied important postings since they did not prefer to be interviewed. Some seasoned officers are waiting for field postings since years at the central police office. They are being kept away because some people don’t feel comfortable while working with them.

During an informal chat, a senior official described governance as “very good” in the Punjab province as compared to Sindh. He stated that the district police officers are posted in Punjab on basis of favouritism or recommendation of ‘someone’.

“In Sindh province, police officers have to pay bribe influential persons to get lucrative posts.”

Several officers were given field postings as district and regional police officers on the request of “powerful” quarters, according to sources at the central police office. Several important posts are lying vacant in the police department in Bahawalpur, Gujranwala, DG Khan and Lahore districts.

Also, in this province, the station house officers and circle officers are posted on the request of MNAs, ministers and other influential individuals. Once a senior politician stated “it is the right of the politicians to get the police officials posted as SHOs at the places of their own choice since they are public representatives.”

Under the present scenario where politicians are virtually running the affairs of the police department, the talks of change in police culture (Thana culture) seem unrealistic. This transfer and posting policy also indicates that the PML-N leadership is no more serious in bringing positive changes to improve the policing.

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. Corruption is rampant in the police department because of such transfers and postings policy.

Extortion by the police is also on the rise. Many constables take bribes from hawkers, roadside food stalls etc. Brothels, gambling dens, organised crime syndicates, and transporters are also a major source of income. Even for passport verification, money is demanded. This has to stop. The government must take initiatives to discourage the 'hafta' (weekly) and ‘monthly’ culture.

In Lahore, police stations having highest crime rate are regarded as the “best police stations”. In such stations, the policemen collect huge monthly income from narcotics dealers and those running brothels or gambling dens. The postings and transfers are ordered on someone’s recommendations.

Most of the SHOs collect ‘monthly’ from brothels, guesthouses and gambling dens. The monthly income of the high-income police stations varies from one million to two million rupees, depending upon the numbers of brothels, drug dealers and gambling dens in the area.

Lahore’s police stations including Nolakha, Tibbi City, Qila Gujjar Singh, Naseerabad, Sabzazar, Lorry Adda, Shafiqabad, Shadbagh, Baghbanpura, Shahdara, Defense-A, Nawan Kot, Satu Katla, Badami Bagh, Factory Area, and Kot Lakhpat are considered A-One police stations from where police generate more than Rs2 million ‘monthly’ income.

According to a recent study conducted by The Nation, every third policeman was penalised on different grounds last year in the Punjab province. Most of the subordinates were punished over absence from duty while senior officers were punished over corruption and misuse of power.

Out of the total 180,000 strong Punjab police force, at least 61,404 cops were punished in 2016 while in 2015 the department had awarded punishments to 57,318 policemen. The police strength has increased over the years and so has corruption.

Most of the officers who were fired by the department on different grounds in recent years are back in business, thanks to Thana culture in the Punjab province. Also, a great number of officers skip punishments during departmental inquiries by using their connections.

The scale of punishments given to a large number of officers reflects poor discipline and rampant corruption in the country’s largest law enforcement agency. The police department needs to appoint clean and dead-honest police officers as district police officers and station house officer to ensure justice at the grass-root level. But there are only a few dead-honest officers in the department and they are often denied important postings.

Unfortunately, most of the postings in police are made on political recommendations. The influential groups recommend officers who appear to be more loyal to them rather than the department.

There will be no positive and visible change on the ground unless the pressure groups and influential are discouraged. If the transfers and postings will be made purely on merit, things will improve automatically. But who will do this is a million dollar question. Who will say no to the powerful and important individuals?