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Wednesday Sep 09 2020

How Punjab’s top cop lost his job

Shoaib Dastagir has been transferred and posted as the secretary of the Narcotics Control Division with immediate effect. — Photo Courtesy: Punjab Police website/File

On Tuesday afternoon, a large group of senior cops gathered in Lahore in the office of the Inspector-General of Police Punjab. The men in uniform were staging a protest against the appointment of Umar Sheikh as the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO).

A senior police officer in Punjab, who asked not to be named, explained that the protest was prompted by Sheikh's reputation. “We were all there to condemn and oppose him.”

When Sheikh tried to enter the office, the gathered officers did not let him. Come evening, however, their anger had turned into stunned silence. Media channels reported the removal of Shoaib Dastgir as the Inspector-General of Police while Sheikh, his junior, stayed.

Nonetheless, the protest in itself was quite extraordinary. In the recent history of the over 200,000-strong provincial police force, rarely have officers spoken out this openly against one of their own.

“I would say it is unusual,” the officer told, “[For the police] the change of command is a routine affair and is usually smooth. He [Dastgir] is the fifth Inspector General to go and never was there any hue and cry like the one we have now.”

The recent tussle between Dastgir and Sheikh, which cost the top cop his job, began a few months back. When the time came for promotions, Sheikh’s bump up was blocked by Dastgir, who was then the IGP. 

“The IG had concerns about his [Sheikh’s] conduct and, well, his reputation,” another police officer, who chose to remain anonymous, said. 

Then, last week, Sheikh was notified as to the CCPO Lahore without consulting the senior-most cop in the province.

Read more: Shoaib Dastagir removed after alleged row with Lahore CCPO, Inam Ghani new IGP Punjab

From there, it only got worse. Soon after his appointment, the CCPO held a meeting with police officers in Lahore. 

“The tone of his speech was rather aggressive. He mocked and taunted the IGP,” the officer who spoke to said.

Sheikh also allegedly told the gathered crowd to route all orders passed by the IG through him first. 

“Sheikh said this in front of 50 officers. It was no secret. In a way, a message was being conveyed to Dastgir.” 

Umar Sheikh did not reply to’s requests for comments.

The next day, Shoaib Dastgir did not come to his office. On Tuesday, he was removed after serving only nine months as the IG Punjab.

Since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government came to power in 2018, Punjab has changed police chiefs five times. Inam Ghani, named on Tuesday to head the Punjab police department, is now the sixth.

This frequent turnover at the top level, say, police officers, is taking an effect on the institution.

“There is instability,” an officer said, “Dastgir was honest, he was upright. Even the previous CCPO was very professional. He did not tolerate any kind of request for changes of SHOs or in-charges of investigations. The police feel really let down by the government right now.”