Sindh police have been in the news ever since they got a new Inspector General in the form of Allah Dino Khawaja last March. Despite whatever human failings he may have — he is still said to be one of the most upright policemen that the province has ever had. Indeed, he is a man committed to transparency. And it is this which has seemingly worked to his disadvantage, with those in government circles reportedly being irked by this.
The row with the provincial government first kicked off over his refusal to do the bidding of the political elite regarding officer transfers. This was a clear signal of his intentions to depoliticise the police, perhaps a first for the province. Before this, vacancies were filled depending on the whims of local political stalwarts.
Nevertheless, the constant wrangling between the PPP-led provincial government and AD Khawaja reached its peak recently when he was divested of his powers to transfer senior police officers. The move rather rendered him little more than a figurehead. Not one to take this clipping of professional wings lightly, the Inspector General filed an application addressed to the Chief Minister. In this he outlined how the erroneous manoeuvre had impacted the command and control mechanism of the force, including in terms of discipline and overall performance. Meanwhile the Sindh High Court disposed of the petition, while issuing a decree asking for AD Khawaja to continue in his post as police chief with all powers fully restored. Following this, the latter cancelled all transfer orders that had previously been passed through the Services and General Administration Department.
There are those of us who remain confused, unable to understand the provincial government’s stubbornness in trying to have AD Khawaja shown the door either by hook or by crook. For there has never been any hint of either corruption or incompetence to mar his record. Or maybe it is sufficient that he dared to stand up PPP bigwigs. Recently, for example, the police chief took strong notice of an incident in which Nawab Zahid Talpur, a local landlord, humiliated an SHO of police in Umerkot district.
In addition, he is also said to be maintaining full transparency when it comes to the hiring process while also doing away with absenteeism in the lower ranks. The welfare of the latter has he accorded due attention by expediting long overdue cases of promotion by rank. This is to say nothing of the fact that AD Khawaja has good working relations with other components of the provincial security apparatus. Such an approach that is at once both collaborative and inclusive has brought with it a marked improvement in Sindh’s law and order situation.
The PPP-led provincial government is well known for its culture of bypassing merit when it comes to administrative decisions. Yet this time the Sindh High Court has taken a stand against this, ensuring that the spirit of justice prevails at least in the police department.
This leaves the government with two options: firstly, to persuade the Centre to recall AD Khawaja, which it has the authority to do. Whether the ruling PMLN would go for such a move in the PPP stronghold, however, is something else. After all, the former is still reeling from the aftermath of the Apex court ruling on the Panamagate scandal.
Nevertheless, the government is said to be in no mood to lock horns with the judiciary on this matter. Secondly, the PPP can look at introducing legislation in a bid to get rid of AD Khawaja by appropriate means.
The fluctuating law and order situation has improved drastically both in Karachi and elsewhere in Sindh. The IG has, it must be said, more than proved his credentials. This should be appreciated. For doing this while being in the line of political fire is no small feat
General elections are looming large. Thus without a handpicked provincial police chief — it is hard to know how the PPP will manage. On the other hand, while AD Khawaja is certainly upfront about his limitations, he has demonstrated steadfastness when it comes to principles. Moreover, the fluctuating law and order situation has drastically improved both in Karachi and elsewhere in Sindh.
The Inspector General has, it must be said, more than proved his credentials. This should be appreciated. For doing this while being in the line of political fire is no small feat. Indeed, AD Khawaja is proving himself to be a veritable role model for the youth, both rural and urban, as well as pretty much everyone else. After all, this is a gentleman who would not kowtow to the Establishment Division and sought legal recourse towards this end.
In a democratic dispensation, the transfer of government officials remains the prerogative of the ruling regime. Yet the later must be mindful of maintaining the sanctity of the system it claims to represent. And this means not removing a senior officer without any cogent reason. Such moves reflect badly on any set-up, speaking as they do of simply focusing on the politically motivated regardless of the public good. Although AD Khawaja may not boast an entirely infallible career record — he, as IG Sindh Police, has demonstrated a much welcomed commitment to institutional merit. And, for most of us, that is good enough. For if one looks hard enough — one can even find fault with a Pope!
The writer is a freelance contributor. He blogs at https://malibaloch.wordpress.com/ and tweets @M_Abaloch
Published in Daily Times, September 14th 2017.