The tussle between the centre and Punjab over removing the Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) is extremely unfortunate. The timing and the abrupt way in which the Establishment Division recalled his services—two days after Lahore police booked two PML-N politicians for their speeches—indicate that the decision was more political than procedural. The federal government cannot simply change an officer because he is not liked by the top leadership. There must be more grounds for transfers or recalls.

However, in the aftermath, the CCPO’s meeting with the Chief Minister of Punjab and the videos that followed also indicated that the CM’s decision to block this reassignment might not be wholly innocent. This is not to say that there is a clear case of the CCPO acceding to the CM’s wishes, far from it. But it is no secret that the provincial police force and other civil services are structured in a way where government officials have no choice but to follow the commands of the government of the time, irrespective of their prime responsibilities.

The independence of civilian law enforcement authorities or other bureaucratic services is hampered by the amount of power the government holds in its hands. If transfers, postings, and career growth were in the hands of the institutions themselves, there would be no complaints on either side of an officer playing favourites.

There must be a rethink of bureaucratic institutions. No modern institution is structured in this way. Civil service departments must be modernised, and for this government involvement in their structures must be brought to a minimum. The private sector must be looked at for an example of how transfers or employee development should be handled. Independent and internal bodies that handle the issue of postings, transfers, and promotions must be created for this restructuring. The government of the time can be included in any oversight committee that ensures that these institutions conduct their duties fairly and impartially. All other interference, by both the provincial and federal governments, must be brought to an end.