There is a difference between sacking a senior official if their performance is not up to standard, and constant reshuffling and turmoil in a department. The consistent changes in the Punjab Police department, especially of the position of the Inspector-General (IG), is that of the latter—several re-postings indicate a weakness, not in the performance of individuals, but in the government’s handling of the police force.

For the fifth time in two years, the IG Punjab has been removed, and a notification has been given for a new contender for the position. There were reported political issues behind this resignation—the former IG Punjab Shoaib Dastgir had taken offence at the appointment of Umar Sheikh as the Lahore capital city police officer (CCPO) and refused to work with him. The matter is made even more complicated, considering that the CCPO has had a poor recommendation from the Intelligence Bureau (IB), and had reportedly not been promoted to BS-21 earlier, because of his less-than-stellar reputation with the Central Selection Board (CSB).

All in all, it is a complicated mess—by removing Dastgir, the government has taken a clear side with Umar Sheikh—and in that process, risks contradicting its own approval of the CSB’s order for supersession. Whatever the merits, and whether Dastgir’s removal was warranted are not the most relevant questions, the real question is that the government has been unable to fulfil its promise of de-politicising the police. Two years on, we have seen absolutely no changes.

This is an issue greater than petty differences between the IG and CCPO—it reflects structural weakness among the Police, and incapability of the government to strengthen the administration of it. Senior police officers can not be hired or fired at a whim, or because they take a principled stance over a specific issue. Consistent removal of the IGP worsens the problem—it sends the message that the Police’s priorities should cater to the Chief Minister most of all. The government needs to demonstrate a proper plan to weed out these political incentives that currently exist in the Police; these constant reshufflings will not do.