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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 403, 16 November 2022

Changes in Joint Investigation Team



The tussle between the federal and Punjab government

Joel Jacob

On 15 November 2022, the Punjab government appointed Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Ghulam Mahmood Dogar as the team’s head. This is the third time that the investigation is being reconstituted in the span of a week.

What is the stand of the Punjab Government?
Chief Minister Parvez Elahi had appointed the Lahore CCPO as head of the JIT on the recommendations of the PTI leadership, which wanted to ‘fix’ all the three top government and military officers that Imran Khan had nominated in his complaint following the assassination attempt on his life. Since losing the battle to have an FIR of its choice lodged, a senior official said police circles believed the PTI leadership had been making efforts to ‘take matters in its hands’ through its influence on the Punjab government and getting the case investigated by ‘favourable’ police officers. But it had yet to reach a consensus with its ally, the PML-Q, which was evident from the fact that the provincial government had changed the heads and members of the JIT four times so far.

The order comes in between the tussle between the state and the province as the officer was suspended by PM Shehbaz Sharif for not complying with the transfer orders issued by Islamabad. Dogar refuses to relinquish the charge of his office. Since the registering of FIR on the Wazirabad attack, the members of the investigation team have been repeatedly replaced, purportedly owing to a lack of consensus between the PML-Q and PTI. The appointment of the Lahore CCPO as head of the JIT stunned many as his suspension issue was pending with the federal government for a final decision.

What is the expert opinion on the changes?
Police experts call these frequent changes a violation of Article 18(6) of the Police Order 2002, saying the rules clearly define the procedure for changing an investigation team and the government’s actions could be challenged in court. On 8 November 2022, a day after the registration of the FIR on Supreme Court orders, the Punjab police constituted the JIT, recommending Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Riaz Nazir Gara as its head, and sending a summary to the provincial government to issue a notification. Its members were DIG Nasir Satti and Assistant Inspector General Ehsanul Haq. On the next day, the government rejected the police’s nominees and notified a new JIT with DIG Tariq Rustam Chohan as its convener. Again the team has been reorganized which makes clear the difference in opinion prevails on who heads the investigation between the federal and the state. In case the federal government announced a major punishment of dismissal from service, as is being expected in the days to come, the legal status of the JIT would again become controversial. (Asif Chaudhry, “Lahore’s top cop given charge of Wazirabad investigation,” Dawn, 16 November 2022; Sher Ali Khalti, “Punjab govt changes JIT third time in Imran Khan case,” The News International. 16 November 2022)

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