National Counterterrorism Authority (Nacta) chief Maher Khaliq Dad Lak in a report submitted to court on Wednesday concluded that orders for the transfer of former Pakpattan district police officer (DPO) Rizwan Gondal in the middle of the night came from the chief minister's office.
A three-judge Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, while hearing the suo motu case, ordered that a copy of the report be given to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Ahsan Jameel Gujjar and Sindh Inspector General (IG) Kaleem Imam.
In the report, Lak sets out to assess whether the incident at CM House constituted a criminal offence or not.
According to the report, Gujjar had asked the DPO about a message sent through 'common friends' which he had not complied with, to which the DPO had replied that DPOs don't go to people's deras to apologise. Gujjar also said, "All will suffer" if such an incident occurs again.
Lak, after a cross-examination of former DPO Gondal and his WhatsApp exchange with Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Azeem Arshad found that the latter had asked the former to resolve the issue by visiting the Manekas or sending a "wise DPO" in his stead, over both WhatsApp call and message.
Additionally, the RPO who is the star witness in the case had also verified through cross-examination the issue of the DPO going to the Manekas' residence, the report noted.
"Ahsan Jameel [Gujjar], during the cross-examination has also partly accepted both statements with a little variation of words, but he reiterates that the intent was to sensitise and to find a solution," the report said.
Lak concludes of both instances ─ the suggestion to visit the Manekas, and Gujjar's "all will suffer" statement ─ that Gujjar's comments were "certainly derogatory, insulting and constitute misconduct," but "whether they constitute criminal intimidation is purely a legal debate."
Lak observed that although Gujjar's statements appeared "vague and non-specific", his "state of mind" while making the statement required analysis "in the backdrop of chain of events and prevailing circumstances". He added that he believed Gujjar was following up the case in the "capacity of a self-proclaimed guardian of the children".
Hence, Lak concludes, it is far more likely that Gujjar's "All will suffer" statement refers to an earlier incident in which the Maneka family were intercepted on their way to Darbar, and "was more of a warning meant to stop the police interfering in their affairs".
"This is my assessment and understanding of the situation. However further decision [can] be taken in the light of the opinion of legal experts."
The second matter discussed in Lak's report was that of the transfer of ex-DPO Gondal at 1am.
Lak said in the report that call records confirmed conversations took place between the personal staff officer (PSO) to CM Buzdar and Punjab IGP Kaleem Imam, between IGP Imam and DIG Headquarters Shahzada Sultan, and between ex-DPO Gondal, the RPO and the DIG HQ.
The report stated that a call was made by the CM's PSO to Gondal at 9am on Aug 27. Lak concluded that "the content of the talk is not known but the sequence of the calls support the contention of ex-DPO Pakpattan."
According to Lak, the DIG HQ confirmed that he had received a "telephone order" at 10pm on Aug 26 to transfer the DPO but was busy at a birthday function and could not comply with the order right away. He then received another call from IGP Imam at midnight to convey the orders to the DPO.
In the report, Lak wrote: "This urgency from IGP also goes in line with the statement of ex-DPO Pakpattan whereby orders were conveyed by PSO to CM to IGP to remove him by 9am. The corresponding time frame also matches."
The RPO, according to the report, also confirmed the ex-DPO's version of events, and said that he had received a call from Gondal "between 26/27 August about his verbal transfer orders".
The report states that the RPO acknowledged that he spoke to the DIG HQ to request the IGP to wait "till finalisation of inquiry but after sometime he received a message to comply with orders."
The report also said: "The PSO to CM has also confirmed that he talked to DPO on the 27/8/2018 at 9am in the morning, but the purpose was not to check whether the DPO had relinquished the charge, but it was just a courtesy call. If we accept his version that it was just a courtesy call and furthermore it was also just a matter of coincidence that call was made at 9am, then it is too far-fetched, rather unbelievable. The version of the DPO that PSO called to check seems plausible."
Lak also discussed the IGP's claim that he had initiated the transfer of the DPO on his own accord without any external pressure. According to the report, IGP Imam said he had transferred the DPO to "ensure fair play so that he is unable to exercise his influence".
Lak said in his report that if this was to be accepted then "common sense demands that inquiry order and transfer orders should have been issued simultaneously, which is not the case as orders were issued on Aug 27 at 1am (morning) after a delay of two days." He added that this "raises eyebrows".
After examining the evidence, the Nacta chief said it could be "safely concluded that the orders of the transferring Ex-DPO Pakpattan at an odd time on 27-08-2018 flowed from CM Office and the ex-IG of Punjab only acted as a 'rubber stamp'.
An earlier report submitted by former Punjab IGP Imam was rejected by Justice Nisar on September 17.
"This case is of great importance for us," remarked the top judge during Wednesday's hearing.
"Why don't we start an anti-terrorism case against him?" he wondered, referring to Gujjar, adding that the latter was now standing before the court head bowed.
"He is now asking for forgiveness," he said, referring to Gujjar's submission of an unconditional apology to the court yesterday for his "unwarranted participation" in official matters.
The Advocate General of Sindh added that this case was of a "highly sensitive nature" and added that there was proof of the CM's intervention in the police.
All parties were ordered to submit their replies to the court within three days. The CJP said the court would announce its verdict on the case by Monday.