Sheikhupura Regional Police Officer (RPO) Additional IG Zulfikar Ahmed Cheema is a case in point. He is known for confronting politicians, even of the ruling party, as well as punishing policemen on various charges, ranging from moral corruption to poor performance and misuse of power to negligence.
Last week, Cheema got transferred Sheikhupura District Police Officer (DPO) Dr Haider Ashraf after convincing Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who was about to leave for Turkey at the Allama Iqbal International Airport.
Of course, the RPO was feeling uneasy while working with Ashraf, said the police circles, adding the DIG believed that the DPO embezzled funds from the department’s budget and also posted corruption-tainted SHOs against the will of his immediate boss.
The action and reaction from the two sides developed and widened the dispute between the RPO and the DPO. Ultimately, the provincial police chief transferred the DPO from the Sheikhupura police region.
On the other hand, some police officers say the DPO successfully accomplished most of the tasks assigned to him by the chief minister including busting of the notorious Kashif alias Kashi gang of Salar ka Bhattian, which had become a symbol of terror in the district. Kashif had carried Rs8million bounty on his head. They also said Ashraf had recently been awarded Rs500,000 and an appreciation letter by the chief minister in connection with a high-profile murder case.
Not long ago, the clash between the RPO and an MNA of the PML-N belonging to Sheikhupura district virtually rang alarm bells in the police corridors when the former took to task the latter for appearing in his office with several body guards equipped with automatic weapons. The RPO lashed out at the MNA and asked the policemen to expel him from the precincts of the police headquarters, since the government had strictly banned display of weapon in the Punjab province.
According to insiders, the top PML-N leadership had to immediately intervene to cool down tempers from both the sides. Since then, a group of politicians in the PML-N are pressing the chief minister to replace the RPO with a flexible and facilitating officer. But the CM is unwilling to replace the officer, who otherwise is leaving no stone unturned to eliminate criminals’ gangs from the crime-infested Sheikhupura region.
Early this year, sources said, a high-ranking DMG official in Punjab had strongly opposed Cheema’s posting as CCPO in Lahore because of their bitter relations in the first tenure of Shahbaz Sharif as the provincial chief executive.
On the directions of RPO Zulifkar Cheema, the Nankana DPO identified as many as 22 police officers who are ‘morally corrupt’. Two of them were dismissed from service while strong warnings were issued to the others. Interestingly, the then DPO Nankana described the two officers in the order-sheet as “chronic drinkers and womanisers” and on this ground they were dismissed from service. However, the ‘victim’ cops complained that they were fired from the police service even without holding an inquiry against them as they were not given a chance to appear before the inquiry officer.
During informal-chat with this reporter, Sheikhupura RPO Zulfikar Cheema said he had begun working to clean the mess in the police force by taking to task the officers, who are found involved in malpractice and corruption.
“We need to appoint clean and dead-honest police officers as Station House Officer to ensure justice at the grassroots level. Unfortunately, some political leaders wanted to get their blue-eyed posted as SHOs. It is not going to happen till I am here,” he pledged.
The influential groups are backing the officers who are more loyal to these politicians rather than the department. “We cannot succeed in ensuring justice at grass root level until and unless crime fighters and honest officers are posted at the police stations on merit. There will be no positive and visible change on the ground unless the pressure groups and influential are discouraged.
“I am just trying to put the house in order first. If the transfers and postings will be made purely on merit, things will improve automatically,” Cheema observed.
The RPO, a seasoned and experiences officer, further say that the police must be purged from politics. But at the same time he admits, that it is a hard nut to crack in a society, where the influential and pressure groups rule the roost.