At certain times the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif seems like a man truly concerned with civic improvement. To an outsider the pride with which he inspected the inauguration ceremony of the newly minted Dolphin squad, and his comments about a competent police force after wards would seem genuine – maybe even inspiring. Yet that outsider would be sorely, gravely mistaken; for underneath the façade of a prudent civic manger lies the same feudal and nepotistic malaise that has been the bane of Punjabi progress.

This week Shahbaz Sharif – the paragon of justice – suspended Bahawalnagar District Police Officer (DPO) Sharik Kamal Siddiqui from the Punjab police for doing his duty and arresting a criminal who had tortured a police constable when he was stopped at a picket. Why would a Chief Minister in full control of his mental faculties do such a thing? Because the ‘criminal’ was Imran Sindhu, who looks after MNA Alam Dad Laleka’s agricultural land; and he was arrested in a raid from the MNA’s outhouse. How dare he; after all what is the nation’s law compared to the perceived prestige of a close party associate. If that wasn’t enough mutilation of the law police high-ups called the DPO to visit MNA’s house and tender an apology – all on the direction of the Sharif brothers.

Nobody denies the original torture, no one denies the fact that Sindhu was an employee of Alam Laleka and was present at his premises – it is the sheer audacity of a DPO to raid and MNA’s property that is being punished. Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mushtaq Sukhera – under whom DPO Sharik Siddiqui worked – said he had nothing to do with the matter as the decision to this effect was taken by a competent ‘authority’. The fact that the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister can order transfers and suspensions in the police force, without going through the IGP, shows the extent of executive interference into the bureaucracy – and the weakness of the IGP. On one hand they crocodile tears over “democracy being under threat” and on the other hand they remove a brave and diligent police officer in the most undemocratic way to soothe the ego of a party MNA. How are we supposed to take Shahbaz Sharif seriously when he talks about the rule of law but he doesn’t abide by it himself? Can we believe him when he says that he will bring terrorists and criminals to heel if he is providing personal protection to petty criminals?