In a surprise move, the Punjab government on Tuesday reconstituted the joint investigation team (JIT) formed to probe the attack on PTI Chairman Imran Khan during his long march in Wazirabad, appointing Lahore police chief Ghulam Mahmood Dogar as its head.
This is the third time that the JIT has been reconstituted as the development came amid Dogar, the Lahore capital city police officer (CCPO), being the bone of contention between the PML-N-led federal and PTI-led provincial governments in recent weeks.
The Centre and Punjab government have locked horns after the Establishment Division issued a transfer and then a suspension order of the Lahore CCPO.
However, the Punjab government had asked him not to leave the charge and continue the work as the Lahore police chief.
On Friday, the Federal Service Tribunal (FST), Islamabad, put off the transfer and suspension order of Dogar.
It directed the Establishment Division to decide the Lahore police chief’s petition against his transfer order first.
On the same day, the Lahore High Court issued notices to the quarters concerned on seeking a reply in a plea challenging Dogar’s continuity of tenure despite his suspension.
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.
Sources said Punjab 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 attempt on his life.
According to the petitioner Safdar Abbas Khan, the Lahore CCPO, had continued to hold office despite having been suspended by the federal government.
Dogar on Tuesday paid a visit to the PTI chief’s residence in Zaman Park. Hours later, a notification appointing him as the convenor of the JIT was issued.
In the first JIT, DIG Establishment-II Tariq Rustam Chohan was appointed the convenor and the members included RPO DG Khan Syed Khurram Ali, AIG Monitoring Punjab Ihsan Ullah Chohan, DPO Vehari Zafar Buzdar and RO CTD Lahore Naseeb Ulllah Khan.
In the JIT notified on November 11, RPO DG Khan Syed Khurram Ali was appointed the convenor. Another change was that of the replacement of DPO Vehari Zafar Buzdar with SP Potohar Division Malik Tariq Mehboob. The other members remained unchanged. The JIT convenor could co-opt for the sixth member of his choice.
Dogar, the newly appointed convenor, can also do the same for the appointment of the sixth member.
In the latest JIT, DIG Rustam Chohan has been dropped.
The JIT has yet to hold its first meeting before starting the investigation even though two weeks since the attack occurred have passed.
Punjab IGP Faisal Shahkar, while sending his recommendation for the JIT, had asked to appoint additional IG Farooq Nazir Gara as the convenor.
Within a day of the registration of the FIR on the apex court’s orders, Shahkar moved the Establishment Division to surrender his services to the federation.
When his request was turned down, he left the country to perform Umrah.
The day his leave was approved and the additional IG elite was handed over the additional charge of the provincial police chief, the notification of the change of JIT was issued.
The PTI leadership has repeatedly demanded the nomination of the prime minister, interior minister and a senior military officer in the FIR of the “conspiracy” to murder Imran.
However, the investigators, including Punjab IGP Shahkar, had insisted on registering the case as well as probing into it as per merit and facts.
A source shared the repeated change behind the JIT constitution was the “search for the appropriate officer trusted by the PTI”. Dogar, during the past few weeks, has produced a similar profile.
It is worth noting that since the JIT was supposed to start its investigation, the prime suspect, Naveed, was taken into custody from the crime scene by the local police. His formal arrest is yet to be recorded.
The other measures mandatory for the investigation were also stalled as the JIT was yet to become functional.