It was decided in the provincial cabinet meeting on Saturday that the Sindh government will return the services of Inspector General of Police (IGP) Allah Dino Khowaja to the federal government and will seek appointment of Sardar Abdul Majeed Dasti as the province’s police chief in light of a Supreme Court order.
Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal later said that “recommendation to remove Khowaja will be sent to the federation. He is an OPS officer while we need a grade 22 officer to become the IGP Sindh,” DawnNews reported.
Briefing the cabinet meeting, the Services Department secretary suggested that A.D. Khowaja, who is a grade 21 officer serving on own pay and scale (OPS) should be replaced by Dasti — a grade 22 officer — in the light of apex court’s order regarding OPS officers.
The Sindh cabinet meeting was held to discuss reforms in the police department.
Responding to the suggestion, Khowaja said that he was appointed as the IG on the suggestion of Sindh government when the SC judgement on OPS officers was present.
Of the 17 officers posted as the IGs since 2005, 14 were grade 21 officers, he said, adding that all current provincial IGs were also grade 21 officers, with the exception of IG Punjab who has recently been promoted.
Earlier, the meeting began with a briefing by the IG in which he presented a proposal to improve the police.
Khowaja proposed that the Additional Inspector Generals (AIG), Zonal Deputy Inspector Generals (DIG) and Senior Superintendents Police (SSP) should be posted for a tenure of two years while other officers hsould be posted for one year.
He suggested that the officers should not be removed from their posts before the completion of their tenures unless there is a compelling reason.
He also suggested minimum criteria for the appointment of station house officers (SHO), whereby only an officer who has served for at least seven years could take the post while their age cannot be more than 55 years at the time of appointment.
The decisions regarding transfers and postings should be made on the suggestions of an IG assessment board he said.
Briefing the meeting after Khowaja, the home secretary opposed his suggestions, claiming that they were in contradiction with Police Rules, 1934.
Speaking on behalf of a committee formed by the chief minister and comprising the home minister, advocate general Sindh and himself, the home secretary said that the powers of postings and transfers should lie with the provincial government rather than the police chief.
The Sindh High Court, in a decision last month, said that the IG cannot be removed without a valid reason, and also returned his powers to transfer and post lower-ranked officers.
Tug of war between Khowaja, Sindh govt
The provincial government and IGP Khowaja have been in a tug of war since last year, with one of the main bones of contention between them being the transfer and posting of police officials.
Headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, a two-judge bench had on May 30 reserved the verdict on a set of petitions against the government’s move to replace Khowaja after hearing final arguments from the petitioners’ lawyer and the provincial government’s chief law officer, Dawn newspaper reported.
The provincial government’s decision to remove Khowaja from his post had been seen by some as the PPP’s strategy for the upcoming general election.
In April, the Sindh government had sent Khowaja packing after it appointed Sardar Abdul Majeed Dasti, then a Grade-21 police officer, already working in the province, in his place.
The Sindh government had said it was “surrendering” Khowaja’s services to the federal government and appointed Additional IG Dasti as the IGP till “appointment/posting of [a] regular incumbent by the Establishment Division”.
However, the SHC on April 3 suspended the provincial government’s notification for Khowaja’s removal.
The Sindh government alleged that the petition being heard by the court was filed in collusion by the original petitioner, IGP Khowaja and the federal government “to show the provincial government in a bad light”.
During the hearings of the petitions, IGP Khowaja offered to leave his post, telling the SHC through his counsel that doing his job had become increasingly difficult under the current circumstances as he has been facing increasing hostility from political quarters, with the provincial government keen to send him packing as soon as possible.
However, the SHC refused to let Khowaja relinquish his post and maintained its stay on his removal till it deliberates the matter.
Earlier in December 2016, the IGP was sent on “forced leave” by the provincial government.
Civil rights campaigners moved the SHC against the decision and subsequently the SHC restrained the Sindh government from sending him on forced leave.
According to the petitioners, the IGP was sent on a “forced leave” on Dec 19 because the Sindh government was “unhappy” with him over several issues relating to the recruitment of constables and suspension of police officers.
Khowaja’s differences with bigwigs of Sindh’s ruling party, the PPP, on issues relating to the removal/posting of police officials before by-elections in some constituencies, his stance on a businessman said to be a close associate of PPP leader Asif Zardari and recruitment in the police department are no secret.
Who is A.D. Khowaja?
A.D. Khowaja was born to Abdul Aziz Khowaja in a family of traders in Tando Mohammad Khan, a small town in the Hyderabad division. However, he was raised by a Hindu friend of his father’s.
One of his first appointments was in Dadu as an operational police officer. Khowaja is known to have adopted an unusual strategy devised at curbing police corruption on a street level ─ he would go undercover, patrolling the streets of Dadu masquerading as a milk seller. During the course of his ‘business’, he would identify cops who would ask him for bribes and take action against them.
He progressed steadily in his career, gaining a decent reputation over time.
Khowaja was tasked with investigating the murder of Murtaza Bhutto who was shot dead outside his party office in Karachi’s South Zone. Then a deputy inspector general (DIG) of police, Khowaja in 2009 testified that he had arrested one of the accused policemen, Wajid Durrani, who was senior superintendent police South at the time of the incident.
In early 2014, Khowaja was appointed DIG Motorways.
In March 2016, he assumed charge as IG Sindh. His appointment was preceded by the removal of Ghulam Hyder Jamali who had found himself at the centre of a National Accountability Bureau investigation into mismanagement of police funds.
In the first meeting he convened as IGP Sindh, Khowaja is reported to have said; “It is the need of the hour to ensure a people-friendly environment at every level in order to improve the performance of the police department and no negligence and carelessness will be tolerated.”
Khowaja called for an improvement in the administrative and financial affairs of the police, and for making operational and investigative steps transparent and impartial.
“The administrative and financial affairs should be made better, besides making operational and investigative steps transparent and impartial. The compensation amount should be paid immediately to the families of policemen killed in the line of duty. All affairs in this regard should be made easy,” he is reported to have said.
Days into his new appointment, three senior officers of the Sindh police filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the newly-appointed Khowaja, seeking his repatriation to his respective parent department.
During his tenure as IGP Sindh, he emphasised greatly the need to depoliticise the police force and revamp Pakistan’s colonial-era laws regulating the police.
He is also known to have set up a board consisting of government officers and civilians that deals exclusively with the issue of misuse of funds.