SC seeks reply from Centre, provinces on political interference in police transfers

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from the federal and provincial governments regarding political interference in the transfer of police officials.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprised of Justice Ayesha Malik and Justice Athar Minallah heard the case regarding political intrusion in the transfers and postings of police personnel in Punjab.

At the request of the petitioner, the apex court expanded the scope of the case to the federation and other provinces and subsequently, asked the federal government and other provinces to submit a response to the case.

“Federation and provinces are to submit records of transfer postings in the police department over the past eight years,” the court mandated.

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The SC ordered the federal government and provinces to submit their responses within two weeks.

During the hearing, the petitioner’s lawyer maintained that transfers of police officers were due to political interference and influence, which was a matter of “public importance and fundamental rights”.

“The continuous transfer of police officers makes a difference to police command and performance,” the chief justice remarked.

The petitioner’s lawyer added that recently, the district police officer (DPO) of Layyah was transferred from the chief minister’s house due to the interference of local politicians, and the event made headlines.

The CJP replied that he had not seen the headlines pertaining to this matter.

The petitioner’s counsel furthered that the DPO eventually dropped charges, despite the police’s initial resistance to the transfer.

“According to the data, the average term of DPO in Punjab is five months, and 268 DPOs were exchanged in Punjab in four years,” Justice Bandial read out data provided by the lawyer.

Justice Ayesha questioned where the data was obtained from, to which the lawyer replied that it was from the commissioner of police (CP) office.

“Political changes in the police make a difference to the performance of the criminal justice system,” Justice Minallah remarked.

The petitioner’s lawyer stated that the average term of an inspector general (IG) of police in Punjab is six months but should be three years as per law. He added that in the past four years, police officers were changed in Punjab without reason.

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The CJP said that according to the petitioner's lawyer, the matter was not limited to Punjab.

“The former IG of Islamabad was a well-educated and decent officer, who handled the case of the attack on [the] Sindh House very well. However, he was also changed,” Justice Bandial stated.

The court declared that the transfer of police officers without reason affects the criminal justice system's performance.

“In these situations, there is a tendency among officers to get higher positions through political influence,” the apex court maintained.

It further stated that the petitioner's lawyer had said that the scope of the matter should be extended to the federation and other provinces.

Subsequently, the SC ordered the federal government and provinces to submit replies to the court within two weeks and adjourned the hearing for two weeks.

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