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PM forms new body in third bid to reform Punjab police

LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan has constituted a high-powered committee to suggest reforms in the Punjab police on the pattern of those in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, giving a prime role to Interior Secretary retired Maj Azam Suleman and Principal Secretary to the PM Muhammad Azam Khan.

The chief secretaries of Punjab and KP, Yousuf Naseem Khokhar and Naveed Kamran, have been appointed as members of the committee.

Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Amjad Javed Saleemi and KP IGP Salahuddin Khan Mehsud will also be part of the committee, which was formed after the PM chaired a meeting in the wake of the Sahiwal incident on Thursday.

The prime minister directed the committee to formulate recommendations taking into account the professional inabilities in the police that surfaced in the aftermath of the Sahiwal operation to avoid such incidents in the future, a senior official privy to the information told Dawn. He said all the above-mentioned officials were present in the meeting as well as Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

The premier directed the committee to furnish recommendations for capacity building of the police force — particularly training, purging it of corruption, making it service-oriented and depoliticising it.

This is the third time the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government (PTI) is attempting to reform the Punjab police since assuming power, the official said.

However, he said that during the meeting the PM ignored IGP Durrani while discussing reforms, when he himself had been showering praises on Mr Durrani publically for bringing reforms in the KP police.

Due to the IGP’s efforts, PM Khan had sought his services and constituted a high-powered ‘Commission on Police Reforms and Implementation’ in Punjab appointing Mr Durrani as its head on Sept 18, 2018. The commission was tasked with ridding the police of political interference/corrupt elements in all its ranks, granting it operational autonomy and empowering the head of the force in transfer/posting matters of senior officials.

The official said that during Thursday’s meeting, Prime Minister Khan also directed Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to make necessary amendments to laws through the Punjab Assembly once the newly constituted committee formulates the draft proposals in this respect.

The first effort of the PTI government to reform Punjab police suffered a major setback when Mr Durrani resigned as head of the commission on Oct 9, only 20 days after his appointment. The resignation had come hours after the Punjab government had transferred the then Punjab police chief Muhammad Tahir and replaced him with Amjad Javed Saleemi.

The government had come under immense criticism, as there was a perception that the ruling elite in Punjab were behind the resignation. To avoid embarrassment, the government had formed another high-level committee, appointing the home secretary as its head. The Punjab IGP was made a member of the committee.

This second committee also became controversial when senior policemen from Police Service of Pakistan criticised the Punjab administration for appointing a bureaucrat as head of a committee to reform the police. Resultantly, only two sessions of the committee were held and it was yet to furnish its recommendations.

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