KARACHI: The PPP-led Sindh government’s decision to remove Inspector General of Police Allah Dino Khawaja from his post bounced back on Monday after the Sindh High Court (SHC) suspended the notification through which his services were surrendered to the federal government.

The provincial government in a ‘strategic’ move had sent the IGP packing on Saturday and appointed Additional IG Sardar Abdul Majeed Dasti as the provincial police chief. The move stirred a political storm in the province.

However, a two-judge bench comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Arshad Hussain Khan ordered ‘immediate’ restoration of Khawaja on the post of the IG by restraining Abdul Majeed Dasti from further continuing with the additional charge of the IG till April 6.

This is the second time that the PPP government, which is learnt to be unhappy with the IG’s policy of maintaining transparency in the financial affairs of the police department and sticking to merit in police appointments, has failed in its efforts to get rid of AD Kawaja.

The SHC order came in two identical petitions filed by civil society organisations, seeking reforms in the policing system by repealing the outdated Police Act of 1861 and restoration of the Police Order 2002.

The petitioners’ lawyer, Faisal Siddiqui, moved two applications — seeking contempt of court proceedings for removing AD Khawaja from the post of the IG in ‘defiance’ of the court’s previous restraining order against his likely removal and the other for granting a stay against the recent removal.

Siddiqui recalled that on December 28, 2016, the court had clearly ordered the provincial authorities that IG Khawaja “shall not be dealt with in violation/contradiction of the judgment of the apex court, by his removal”.

He argued that constitutional issues raised in the petition had been set out in the order issued on December 28, “but at present the petitioners were aggrieved by the alleged disobedience and disregard of the operative part of the above referred order”.

“In terms of the interim relief granted, it has been directed that the police officer is not to be dealt with in a manner in violation of the judgment of the SC in the well-known Anita Turab case by his removal.”

Referring to the Sindh government’s March 31 order addressed to the federal government, Siddiqui said: “The services of AD Khawaja, who has been serving on the IG’s post on that date, are surrendered to the federal government and furthermore three officers’ names are recommended to the center for the appointment as the top cop in his place.”

Issuing a follow-up notification on April 1, the provincial government firstly releaved Khawaja of the IG’s post with immediate effect, directing him to report to the Establishment Division. Secondly, Sardar Abdul Majeed Dasti was directed to hold the additional charge of the IG’s post.

The judges noted that both the officers were in the Police Service of Pakistan, which was an All Pakistan Service within the meaning of Article 240 of the Constitution.

To their query, Sindh Advocate General Barrister Zamir Ghumro accepted that the post of the IG police, in any province, was to be held by an officer of the Police Service of Pakistan.

Siddiqui said the above-mentioned order and notification were issued in complete violation of the interim order passed in December 2016. Therefore, he sought suitable relief — both in terms of the appropriate action against the alleged contemnors, and also by way of further/fresh interim relief.

Strongly opposing such pleas, particularly for grant of further/fresh interim relief, the AG contended that the government did not violate the December 28 order. He argued that in any case the matters relating to the transfer/posting, etc., as relevant in the case were peculiarly within the provincial domain.

“Therefore, the Sindh government has appropriately exercised its powers by issuing the order of Khawaja’s surrender to the centre and posting of Dasti in his place”, he maintained.

To the court’s query, Barrister Ghumro said: “The legal powers regarding the police force in Sindh, IG police in particular, vested with the provincial government in terms of Subsections 3 and 4 of the Police Act 1861, which is currently in force in Sindh.”

“There are constitutional challenges to the Provincial Assembly Act of 2011, whereby the Police Order 2002 has been repealed and the Police Act reinstated insofar as (Sindh) province is concerned, [therefore the petitions] are without merit.”

To a judge’ query, the AG candidly and quite properly stated that the order and the notification had not been issued as a result of a decision taken by the provincial cabinet.

“If such statutory powers are conferred on the provincial government, these can be exercised in the cabinet and by the cabinet decisions, and not otherwise, as the Supreme Court held in a recent judgment,” the judges told him.

They referred to the concluding para of the SC’s judgment, which stated: “Neither a secretary, nor a minister and nor the prime minister are the federal government and the exercise, or purported exercise, of a statutory power exercisable by the federal government by any of them, especially, in relation to the fiscal matters, is constitutionally invalid and a nullity in the eyes of the law…”

To the constitutional point whether the police were a provincial subject after the passage of the 18th Amendment, the bench directed the petitioners’ lawyer as well as the AG Sindh to argue on this point on the next date of hearing.

The judges also clarified that the interim order passed earlier, wherein the provincial government was directed not to deal with Khawaja’s case in violation of the judgment passed by the SC, will also continue till the next date of hearing on April 6.

Differences

According to reports, the IG Sindh was removed because of a tussle between him and a businessman said to be a close associate of PPP leader Asif Zardari who runs his sugarcane business.

According to officials, the business tycoon asked IG Khawaja to use police force, ensuring that sugarcane was only supplied to his mill in lower Sindh. The differences came to the fore after he refused to oblige him. Apart from that, appointments in the police force is said be another bone of contention between him and ruling party.

The IG was insisting on appointing candidates on merit, conducting test through the National Testing Service (NTS). Meanwhile, the government suggested continuing the old system and pressured him to appoint police officers of their choice in various districts.

With additional input from Hafeez Tunio