AD Khawaja
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GVS Analysis by Muhammad Azam |

The ongoing power struggle between Inspector-General Police of Sindh, Allah Dino Khawaja, and the provincial government of Pakistan Peoples Party continues to simmer. For the past several months, media reports of the tussle between IG Sindh AD Khawaja and the PPP controlled provincial government indicate that the clash has been intensifying.

On Thursday, newly appointed Sindh home minister Suhail Anwar Siyal held a meeting with senior police officers in which IG Sindh was absent. Later, news reports began circulating alleging that A.D. Khawaja had barred his subordinates from attending the meeting. These claims were denied by a police spokesperson who stated that the IG had not barred anyone rather, had asked his subordinates to inform him before attending any meetings with government officials.

The tussle between IG Sindh A.D. Khawaja and the Provincial government stems from Khawaja’s refusal to obey the whims of the political elites of the region

The home minister criticized this order of the IG, calling it childish. He went on to disparage the Sindh IG and said “He is the subordinate of my subordinates … If he hatches a conspiracy against the government, people of Sindh will foil his designs”

This very public conflict between the provincial government and the head of police is an exceptionally disturbing phenomenon because it points to the underlying dysfunction plaguing Sindh.

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GVS has endeavored to shed light and present an in-depth analysis of the current turmoil faced by the Police in Sindh, its origins, and the broader consequences of this conflict for the province.

Dynamics of the relationship between Sindh Police and Provincial Government

To get to the heart of the ongoing conflict it is essential to understand the dynamic between the provincial government and the police for which we must refer to the laws that dictate their relationship.

The Police Ordinance of 2002, enacted by the Musharraf government, took steps to depoliticize the provincial police departments. It gave the high command of the police a certain degree of autonomy in its fundamental functions, namely: adjudication, prosecution, and investigation by limiting the influence of the political establishment as ascribed in the 1861 Police Act. These measures also provided the Inspector General with a guaranteed tenure of 3 years. However, despite this directive, during the period from 2005 to 2011, there were 7 different IG Sindh appointments serving from anywhere between 2 to 15 months. These brief tenures were naturally insufficient for the IGs to establish themselves and did not impede the politicization of the Sindh police.

Without the support of the Sindh government, the IG cannot be effective at making reforms and enforcing policy.

On 15th July 2011, the Sindh Assembly repealed the Police Ordinance 2002 and restored the archaic 1861 Police Act. Rights activists and legal experts are of the opinion that this move restored the iron grip of the political elite on the province’s police department. Resultantly, after 2011, the provincial government had wide-ranging authority with regards to recruitment, posting, and administration of the Sindh police.

The tussle between IG Sindh A.D. Khawaja and the Provincial government stems from Khawaja’s refusal to obey the whims of the political elites of the region, from a legal perspective the latter seem to have an upper hand.

Without the support of the Sindh government, the IG cannot be effective at making reforms and enforcing policy. Current reports indicate that IG Khawaja has been purposefully kept out of the loop by government officials in an attempt to curb his influence.

Salient features of the conflict

A.D. Khawaja was appointed as IG in March of 2016 after his predecessor, Ghulam Haider Jamali, was dismissed on corruption charges. In fact, Khawaja was one of the three members of the inquiry committee appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate Jamali.

Before taking charge as IG Sindh, Khawaja was serving as Additional Inspector-General Special Branch.

Traditionally local chieftains handpicked officers who were subservient to them for important positions and the IG’s efforts to award postings on the basis of merit went against this status quo.

Informed sources told GVS that initially, the provincial government was satisfied with the performance of Khawaja. The standard of policing in Sindh improved dramatically. The IG had taken measures to enhance the welfare and benefits of the constabulary, introduced measures that made the force more advanced in terms of technological capability and maintained scrutiny of police efforts at a district level.

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Issues began to arise when the IG started recruitment on the basis of merit, through NTS tests, and refused to accept political nominations. A well-known practice of local politicians is to use vacancies in the police as a political tool. The vacancies are hoarded and then given on the basis of political or tribal affiliation. Dispensing positions in the police force for money is also common.

Another point of contention arose when the IG asserted himself in the assigning of postings and transfers. Traditionally local chieftains handpicked officers who were subservient to them for important positions and the IG’s efforts to award postings on the basis of merit went against this status quo.

The IG is also said to have intervened personally in district level policing matters to ensure that the police was not treated like the personal guard of the ruling politicians. This set him at loggerheads with the local power players. It has been reported that the IG refused requests regarding the transfer of sugar cane to powerful businessman and close friend of PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

The cumulative effect of A.D. Khawaja’s actions as IG Sindh threatened the decades-long supremacy of the ruling class in Sindh. Because of this, he was sent on a forced leave in December 2016 and in his place the provincial government appointed Sardar Abdul Majeed Dasti as acting IG without waiting for approval from the federal government.

Following his removal, rights activists and civil society members interceded by filing a petition in the Sindh High Court demanding the reinstatement of Khawaja as IG Sindh. As a result, the SHC issued a stay order against the government’s decision to remove Khawaja and he was reinstated in April 2017.

However, the prolonged confrontation with the provincial government rendered the IG’s office almost incapable of effective administration of the police force. Presently, IG Khawaja is not invited to any important meetings of the Sindh Apex committee nor his input on crucial policing matters taken into account. He has, in effect, been isolated.

In light of these circumstances, the IG filed an application to the SHC offering to resign his post. His application stated that he wished to remain as a serving police officer but because of the impediments erected by the provincial government, he could not be effective in his role as IG Sindh. The Supreme Court, for now, has rejected this application, stating that a professional officer continues his work no matter what the circumstances, as a way of justification.

The Bigger Picture

At the backdrop of this struggle are the tremendous, ever-growing law and order challenges facing Sindh.

Karachi serves as Pakistan’s business, trading, and shipping epicenter. The city has been subject to an exponential growth of its population. Floods, insurgency, and poverty have resulted in thousands of people swarming to the city in search of sanctuary and opportunity. Latest estimates put the population at a minimum of 24 million with 24,000 people per square kilometer.

“If the government wishes to appoint an IG, they may take one year to ponder their decision. But when the IG is appointed it is imperative that he is allowed to serve for the full term of three years”

Policing requirements for such a vast populace are equally gargantuan. A source privy to the state of policing affairs informed GVS that the estimated minimum manpower required for effective policing of Karachi alone is of 50,000 police personnel. Currently, the allotted police force to Karachi is only 30,000. Of those 12,000 are serving as security for politicians and other miscellaneous big wigs while only 7,000 to 10,000 are involved in active policing of Karachi’s districts. The rest 11,000-14,000 are vacant positions which are preserved for political purposes. The PPP provincial government is expected to leverage these for the upcoming 2018 general elections.

Sources reveal that the existing police force is largely constituted of aged personnel, well past their prime, and lack physical vigor to execute their role effectively. Furthermore, the SSPs are not sufficiently empowered to carry out their duties and face constant interference from their overseeing DIGs.

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The role of DIG is of a supervisory nature and operational decision making is officially at the discretion of the SSP. By interfering with the SSP’s policing responsibilities, the DIG inhibits decision-making confidence and discourages the proactive approach required for dealing with difficult situations.

GVS reached out to ex-IGP Sindh Shahid Nadeem Baloch, a veteran who is well aware of the challenges faced by Sindh Police, for his views on the best way to tackle the challenges faced by Sindh’s police force.

A.D. Khawaja and his efforts may have been sidelined, but in the process, he has set an example of unbowed integrity in the face of extreme odds, and that is his greatest triumph.

“If the government wishes to appoint an IG, they may take one year to ponder their decision. But when the IG is appointed it is imperative that he is allowed to serve for the full term of three years” He stated.

He signified that if any Sindh IG is expected to be effective and bring about the required reforms, he must be allowed to complete the full term of 3 years.

In a city historically plagued by politically backed militancy, crime syndicates involved in widespread extortion, and home to international smuggling networks, Sindh Police, despite its indispensable role, is still being used as a political commodity by the self-serving overlords of the province.

A.D. Khawaja and his efforts may have been sidelined, but in the process, he has set an example of unbowed integrity in the face of extreme odds, and that is his greatest triumph.

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