The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday accepted written apologies from Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Ahsan Jameel Gujjar, and former inspector general of Punjab Kaleem Imam, and wrapped up the case regarding the transfer of former Pakpattan district police officer (DPO) Rizwan Gondal. A three-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, was hearing a suo motu case regarding the incident. The apologies were accepted with the condition that “such an incident would not occur again”.
“If [such a thing] happens again, this case will be reopened,” Justice Nisar warned.
Earlier on Monday’s hearing, the chief justice had criticized the response issued by the Punjab chief minister to an inquiry report of the incidentthat was written by the chief of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) Maher Khaliq Dad Lak.
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The Nacta chief had concluded in his report that the orders for Gondal’s transfer in the middle of the night “flowed” from the chief minister’s office. CM Usman Buzdar had released a formal response to the report, terming Lak’s report as a “figment of the imagination of a fertile mind”. Among other findings, Lak’s report mentioned that Gujjar, in a meeting with the DPO and other police officers at the Punjab Chief Minister’s Office, had said “all will suffer” if such an incident occurred again.
Lak concluded that Gujjar’s words were “certainly derogatory, insulting and constitute misconduct”, but stopped short of deeming them an attempt at coercion, saying that “whether they constitute criminal intimidation is purely a legal debate”. In response, Gujjar — who had earlier offered an apology to court his “unwarranted participation” in official matters — had termed the report “vague” and claimed that he couldn’t have interfered in state matters as he did not hold public office.
During today’s hearing of the case, Justice Nisar took exception to CM Buzdar’s response to Lak’s report, asking if this was the “kind of language” that was to be used against a responsible officer. He warned that the AGP was “taking this matter too lightly” and added that a joint investigation team may be formed to investigate the incident. He also denounced the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, asking if this was how ‘Naya Pakistan’ was going to operate.
“It has been said that he [Buzdar] will remain chief minister as long as the PTI is in government,” the CJP said, adding: “Go tell the prime minister that I am unhappy with him. Is this what Naya Pakistan was supposed to be?”
Justice Ejazul Ahsan, who was also on the three-member Supreme Court bench hearing the case, declared that CM Buzdar’s response was a “direct attack on inquiry officer Khalid Dad Lak”.
The AGP ended up retracting Buzdar’s response and apologized on the CM’s behalf. The apology, however, was not accepted by the CJP, who told the AGP to submit it in writing on behalf of Buzdar. Justice Nisar also criticized the CM for allowing Gujjar to tell the DPO that “all will suffer” if such an incident occurred again. He asked the AGP if he knew the punishment for interference in state matters, which Gujjar is being accused of. Justice Ejaz told the court that there was a minimum three-year sentence for the offense.
Gujjar’s lawyer Ahsan Bhawan told the CJP that he had come to offer an “unconditional apology on behalf of his client”. The AGP also assured the court that “such a thing will never happen again”. Meanwhile, former IGP, Imam, had said that he was “at the mercy of the court”.
In August, Khawar Maneka was flagged to stop at a security picket in Pakpattan by police, but he allegedly refused and raced ahead. The police had subsequently chased him down and forced him to stop, after which harsh words were exchanged between the two parties. When Gondal’s transfer orders started making rounds a few days later, it was widely speculated in news and social media that that the police officer was transferred because of the incident.
It was believed that the officer was transferred for refusing to apologize in person to Khawar Maneka over the altercation between him and the police. However, it later transpired that there had been two incidents involving a run-in between the Maneka family and local and highway police, which had led to acrimony between Khawar Maneka and Pakpattan police. That acrimony finally came to a head when the Punjab police chief, the chief minister and the Maneka family got pulled into a messy dispute over how the matter should have been resolved, which ended with the abrupt transfer of Gondal from his police duties.