Sindh police officers challenge federal govt’s rotation choices in court
There is a policy followed by Islamabad and all the provinces to rotate police officers from each other’s jurisdiction. The idea is to tackle shortages and expose them to different law enforcement challenges and terrains.
When it came to Sindh’s turn this year, the federal government (or Establishment Division) randomly transferred six Deputy Inspectors General (DIGs) out of the province instead of going by the seniority list. If it had followed the list from the top it would have instead sent a batch of seven Grade 20 PSP officers.
PSP stands for Police Service of Pakistan, which is the cream of the force, officers who sit the prestigious CSS exam, as opposed to ‘rankers’ who join as ASIs. To give you a sense of how high ranking these officers were, consider that grade 22 is the highest.
This decision has been challenged in court. On March 8, two Sindh High Court judges suspended the transfers. The bench, headed by Justice Muhammad Shafi Siddiqui, observed that some consideration was due on the petitioner Advocate Rashid Bohio’s point that the Establishment Division had played favourites. The court ordered the authorities at the Centre and in Sindh to send in their comments on the case.
Rotation Policy 2020 was approved last year on August 5 by all provinces. In principle, it says that PSP officers who have served for a long period at one geographical location will be rotated to rationalize the shortage of officers in each grade. And least rotated officers would be transferred.Last month, then six DIGs were transferred by the Establishment Division.
In January 2021, the rotation policy was rolled out. The Establishment Division made a list of 21 PSP officers, who had been serving in Sindh for more than 10 years. It announced that they were being transferred in three steps. This was the list of the first 10 for the first phase:
When the orders were issued, there was a reaction over the way it was done. For the PSP officers, these transfers were out of turn. If the Establishment Division had gone by the list, Omar Shahid Hamid, Abdullah Sheikh, Javed Ali Mahar and Muhammad Nouman Siddiqui should have been transferred because they were declared least rotated officers instead of Irfan Baloch, Munir Ahmad Sheikh, Qmaruz Zaman and Iqbal Dara (they were at numbers 13, 17 and 20). PSP officers on the Rotation Policy list knew that they could not block the orders of the Establishment Division since they are all employees of the federal government, not the Sindh government.
Apparently, the officers had no problem as such being transferred from Sindh. They were just raising their voice against the way the Establishment Division had picked and chosen men, which flies in the face of any policy or system. If you throw the rules out the window, then inequality prevails.
If you go through the list you will see that there are several officers who were never transferred from Sindh their entire tenure. For instance, DIG Farhat Ali Junejo and DIG Mohammad Arif Hanif, who escaped rotation since they were promoted, have completed their entire 21 years of service in Sindh alone.
There are many reasons why an officer would be reluctant to be transferred. It is open knowledge that police officers engage in real estate acquisition on their home turf despite the fact that like other public servants they are not allowed to run a private business while in service.
Another reason to be reluctant, and quite an understandable one, is that officers who marry women from one province might find it difficult to uproot their family to another. It is a challenge to move your family to another province. Additionally, the parents of some officers are elderly which makes it an even harder decision to move. And then there is the schooling for their children.
Ostensibly, on the face of it, the Federal government transfers or rotates officers to balance out numbers in all the provinces. But it is an undisclosed reality that the Centre has the strong perception that PSP officers in Sindh are serving the ruling party and not the public. The Sindh government has jumped in to plead there is a shortage in a bid to retain long-serving officers. It has written the Establishment Division to first overcome Sindh’s shortage before transferring its men out.
PSP officers know, however, that as employees of the federal government they have to follow its directives. And so, to appear apolitical and tread lightly with the ruling party heavyweights, they very cleverly took recourse to the law. And indeed, they had a technical foothold. For who can find fault with the plea that a uniform implementation of its policy is the only way the federal government can achieve its goals.