LAHORE: With the transfer of hundreds of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officers across the country under a newly formed rotation policy, working of the agency has hit a snag as not only the pendency of cases has been increasing, the prosecution process in the cases pending at various courts is also being severely affected.
The rotation policy was formed by the Interior Ministry on the directions of Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad to counter the claim of ‘culture of cronyism, intercession and corruption’ within FIA due to ‘life-time’ postings of the officials at one place.
Under the rotation policy, all officers from grade 16 to 20 who have been posted in the same province, in Islamabad as well as in the Gilgit-Baltistan zone for 10 consecutive years will be transferred to other provinces and zones. Similarly, grade 16 Inspectors and equivalent officers posted in the same zone for the past 10 years will be required to serve in another zone for at least one year.
It remains a mystery as to who influenced the interior minister to formulate such a policy, the decision which has obviously been taken without much deliberations has come under severe criticism from many quarters.
FIA, unlike the police or any other national level force, doesn’t have the same perks and facilities to offer its officials or its officers when they’re transferred or posted away from their home provinces.
Transfers from one zone to another is a routine matter for majority of FIA officials with some exceptions, too. Both Karachi and Punjab have two zones each whereas Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Islamabad have one each. However, inter-province transfers have never been a policy within the FIA ever since its inception in 1974, a senior FIA official seeking anonymity told Bol News.
Over the years, it has been noticed that some officers have been transferred to other provinces [away from home province] only as a ‘punishment’, he added.
According to him, if a police officer of Grade 17 [ASP], Grade 18 [SP], Grade 19 [SSP] and Grade 20 [DIG] or above is transferred from one province to another it has all the resources at his back including a well-decorated office, house and attached staff whereas an FIA officer in Grade 17 [Assistant Director], Grade 18 [Deputy Director], Grade 19 [Additional Director] and above doesn’t ‘enjoy’ the facilities and resources at all.
Moreover, he says, FIA offices which mostly on rented buildings, have been established at least at the divisional level across the country but the officers have to manage their residences on their own although they get house rent and other allowances. FIA is an investigation agency which hasn’t been mandated to maintain law & order but to investigate and prosecute cases across the country.
Another senior FIA official told Bol News that FIA officials during their stay at a place develop a network of their ‘sources’ to track down criminals, involve even in transnational crimes but such a massive level transfer / postings can waste their years of ‘investment’ and break their entire network, ultimately benefiting the accused. “It is not a big secret too that sometimes FIA officials use these networks to further their personal gains rather than that of Agency’s and accused get scot free easily with their ‘blessings”, he noted.
According to the senior official, it is also a bitter reality that if an official is transferred out of the provinces he wouldn’t be able to establish his new network at a new place very easily. “It requires time and resources to establish a network of sources at various places to catch big fish and it’s not an easy task.”
Seeking anonymity, another senior FIA official of Grade 21 told Bol News that identifying crime and registering cases against the accused isn’t the only job, but successful prosecution of those cases is, of course, key to it all.
Without mentioning certain cases, the senior FIA official told Bol News that several accused have been set free since implementation of the rotation policy, after evidence couldn’t be presented in the court in time. He said by transferring the entire FIA hierarchy, things have become so bad that even communicating court orders to relevant Investigation Officers (I.O) have become a daunting task.
“Various courts have ordered seizure of salaries of many FIA officials after new staff posted at courts failed to inform them in time,” he revealed. Moreover, he added, it becomes difficult for an IO to attend every hearing even if he is posted in some other provinces. “Suppose an FIA official has to attend a hearing at Lahore while he is posted at Peshawar or Karachi or elsewhere, tell me how it is possible for him to attend each hearing.”
A Deputy Director, seeking anonymity, told Bol News that once on a Friday evening he had just returned from another province after travelling several hundred miles to spend the weekend with his family, but the very next morning (Saturday) he was asked to rush back since the Interior Minister was due to visit the city and his (official’s) presence was required at the airport.
“I travelled hundreds of miles back to my workplace again and after attending the Minister’s day-long visit I had to return back to my hometown to attend a court hearing the next morning,” the DD narrated, adding that many officials like him have gone through such painful journeys in recent months, primarily due to the rotation policy.
Similarly, an Assistant Director FIA told Bol News that twice the court ordered seizure of his salary when he failed to appear before the court as he was not informed about it in time. He further said that at a time when TA /DA wasn’t being paid for months, how could they manage their travels from their own pocket every time.
“This [Rotation] Policy should have been introduced in phases to avoid the mess the Agency’s officials have been facing at the moment,” he remarked, adding, the higher management of the FIA should have given a deadline of at least 04 to 06 months to its officials to get themselves prepared for such a massive level transfer / postings so that working of the leading investigation agency wouldn’t have affected. According to the AD, as a matter of fact this rotation policy has also come under severe criticism because it was not implemented in letter and spirit. With the ‘blessings’ of their bosses, some ‘favourite’ officers in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad are still enjoying their earlier postings, even after the implementation of this policy.
A senior FIA official, terming rotation policy as an unwise strategy, said he had opposed this [policy] while knowing its repercussions. “How do you expect an FIA official who mainly served at Peshawar and now posted at Lahore to understand the dynamics of crimes and cases of that zone? He asked.
He further said the same is the case with those officers who got transferred from Lahore and were posted in Karachi, Peshawar or elsewhere.
Another senior FIA official told Bol News that though this policy was implemented in a haste but it was need of the hour as FIA officials during their extended period of posting at a certain place have developed their groups to mint money. “This [policy] would help to break their groups for good.” He said no doubt that cases and prosecution have affected quite a lot with such a rotation but everything will be settled in due course. “Absolutely, certain things need to be fixed and we will fix them in due time.”
When contacted, Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad told Bol News that nothing untoward had happened due to his rotation policy as everything within FIA was running smoothly. He said half of the Cabinet members were not happy with him over handling of FIA affairs as they wanted their officers employed in FIA.
“Every [PSP] police officer wants to join FIA as they have really good salaries in comparison with police,” said Sheikh Rasheed, adding he will implement the rotation policy in letter and spirit. “I’m going to get a report or have a meeting with FIA officials soon, probably on Monday, to discuss this issue,” Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said, adding that no one will be given special treatment at all.