There is a fine line that separates strong and decisive government initiatives from overbearing excesses of executive power – with his latest step; it seems that Imran Khan has strayed into the latter.

With one phone call to the Punjab Chief Minister, Usman Buzdar, the Prime Minister directed removal of police and district administration officials named in the June 2014 Model Town case from their present postings; almost 125 individuals in total. This sudden removal of so many government officials, many of whom have been posted to various stations and positions over the years following the incident, comes as a shock and is problematic for a host of reasons.

While it is undeniable there is a need to find out who is responsible for the tragic deaths in the Model Town incident, and every effort must be made to get to the bottom of this, punishing people who have not been declared guilty by any commission or court of law is unjust to say the least. These 125 names have been taken from a private complaint filed by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) before an anti-terrorism court – at the moment they are only alleged to be responsible for the actions that day, there is nothing definitive that pins the blame on them despite years of court cases and inquiries Furthermore we must remember that the police force were following someone’s orders and not acting on a whim, the real blame lies in the upper echelons of the chain on command. Holding all 125 responsible without any deliberation and proof is an affront to principles of justice and the maxims of our legal system.

The way this order came about is troubling still. The PAT, which was fuming over a Lahore High Court (LHC) decision rejecting two sets of appeals challenging a trial court’s decision regarding the incident, had reached out to Imran Khan for redress. One phone call from PAT Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri, a friendly political activist who had shared the stage with the Prime Minister when he had staged a sit-in in Islamabad, convinced Imran Khan to take this expansive action – almost as a favour to ally of the past. Whether this is the correct method of removing officials is something that requires debate, but it is difficult to shake the impression that it was taken out of partisan political motivations.

Imran Khan needs to win the hearts and minds of the Punjab bureaucracy if he is to implement his plans agenda with vigor. So far his actions have not inspired confidence among the officials; this unilateral exercise of executive power will alienate them further.