STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

“Tail wagging the head”. An idiom that befits the present situation. A fifth Inspector General of Police has been posted in two years of PTI Government. Is it normal? Most definitely not. It seems like the trigger is stuck on a rapid fire weapon. The gun should be aimed at the weaknesses and incompetency of the police force in Punjab. Instead it has fallen into the hands of colliding interests in the citadels of power.

I have written multiple times about the situation in Punjab. It is the Achilles’ heel of PTI.  Enforcement of law is the responsibility of Police. However, if the chain of command is conflicted it cannot operate as a disciplined force. The events as they unfolded tragically point in that direction. Lahore is the epicenter of Punjab and its police chief is one of the most sensitive appointments.

Yet, CCPO Lahore was appointed without the knowledge and approval of Punjab Police Chief. It was done by remote managers sitting in Islamabad. Their blessings emboldened the CCPO. In a meeting of his subordinates, he directed them that IGP’s orders must be approved by him before implementation. Word got out and IGP rushed to Islamabad to point out the impossible situation he has been put in.

Instead of bringing the CCPO to his senses a decision was made to remove the IGP. Whatever the realities, the optics are terrible. How can a disciplined force function in such an environment? There are some very dark comparisons between this situation and the previous regime. PM IK had proclaimed that police was really “Shahbaz Force” and appointments were based on personal loyalties.

A bit of rewind is necessary to refresh memories. PTI came to power with a declared agenda to institutionalize the pillars of power, bring reforms and to eliminate corruption. Police interacts the most with people. Cleansing it was a priority to provide relief to citizens. Intimidation, coercion and “Thana” culture would end. This process required bringing in clean and competent heads of the institutions.

Two years down the road there is nothing to show for the tall claim of Police Reforms promised by PTI. CM Buzdar stands out as a monument of disaster. He reminds me of a US President who would lock himself in a closet anytime a difficult situation arose. He would emerge once decisions were taken. If they came out right he would take the credit, if not blame others.

Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) has many competent and outstanding officers. A number of my contemporaries joined this service. Many excelled and earned distinctions. Now most of them are retired, enjoying clean reputations. There are some bad apples too. Police service gives so much exposure and temptations. It is a challenge to keep your nose clean.

It seems this CCPO succumbed to weaknesses of flesh and glamour of easy money. A copy of his evaluation report has leaked. It resulted in him being superseded. But he has cultivated some powerful backers. He was appointed CCPO bypassing the IGP. Instead of being thankful he stuck a thumb in eyes of IGP. This was severe misconduct unacceptable to his superiors.

When the crossroads came, CCPO Umar Sheikh prevailed. The IGP who took a stand was transferred. The serving PSP’s had a meeting condemning this misconduct. A general cannot lead with a backstabbing team. It has severely demoralized the Force.

The recent rape incident on Lahore ring road is condemnable. Even worse is the CCPO questioning the victim as to why she drove on an isolated road on low fuel? They are utterings of a pompous, insensitive and callous so-called guardian of law. A citizen’s need after food is safety and security. Retaining him would be a huge folly. He should be gone forthwith.

Why are such rapid changes being made in Police Chiefs of Punjab? Are there no clean and competent officers left at senior levels of police? According to my sources all the five appointees are career officers with clean reputations. Their style of management differed according to their personalities. Disciplined forces are not geared up to bring about revolutionary changes. They have to be directed by their political leadership. Leaders set targets and objectives to implement the “Agenda of Change”.  The force implements it into a reality.

Unfortunately that leadership is severely lacking in Punjab. CM Buzdar is incapable, period! Nature abhors a vacuum. So the leadership has been hijacked by competing groups to serve their own self interest. Punjab is being run from the Centre guided by appointed advisors. They don’t have any skin in the game. If PTI folds up they will go someplace else. That is not a luxury that PM IK or PTI have.

To further complicate matters, part of the ruling team in Punjab has carved up territories to create their spheres of influence. This is a recipe for disaster. A rudderless ship will run aground sooner than later. These fiascos are a symptom of a much larger problem.

Punjab is home to nearly 60% Pakistanis. This Province makes and breaks political fortunes. It is high time that PM IK cleans his stables before the signs of manure become permanent. Underlying principles of merit and reform have to be followed irrespective of consequence. Credibility is eroding fast. Unless the course is changed it will become tough for PTI loyalists to deliver in the forthcoming local bodies elections.


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