Another bout of political machinations has culminated in a reordering of the Sindh police hierarchy whereby Inspecter General Amjad Javed Saleemi has removed Karachi police chief Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar. The action comes in the wake of the FIA director general’s allegation that the Sindh police was harassing witnesses-amidst speculation that powerful quarters were unhappy over the role of Karachi police in an FIA-mandated money laundering case against Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur.

Curiously, the ousted police chief had recently been opposed by PTI leader Haleem Adil Sheikh before the elections, alleging that free, fair and transparent elections were impossible under Mahar’s supervision as he was notorious as a facilitator of the Pakistan Peoples Party. As a testament to such entrenched patronage politics, while the ECP had implemented a reshuffling of the entire police bureaucracy, reassigning key officials from eminent posts, Mahar remained the only officer in the senior Sindh Police bureaucracy who was not transferred. Incidentally, Mr Mahar’s was shuffled once before by the hidden hand of the establishment to thwart the pervasive PPP hold in the province’s bureaucracy.

Where some would argue that the removal of the police chief is a step towards rooting out patronage politics in the bureaucracy, the fact remains that such measures are but a small compensation in the trope of discerning political power plays. While senior officers in the current Zardari case admitted to exacting undue pressure on witnesses to ‘ensure their presence in the SC’, the cronyism and heavy-handed practices of the police are far from being a well kept secret. Following Rao Anwar’s case, the implicit nature of patronage ties and symbiotic liaisons that run through the bureaucratic nexus have already come to the fore without due castigation. What needs to be pointed out here is the selective nature of justice- one that casts shadows over the establishment and state institutions’ quest for scourging the bureaucracy of corruption. In this instance, where the customary course of action could have been registering an FIR against such policemen for harassment, the prompt removal of the PPP-favoured chief –coinciding with the corruption case proceedings- is a disproportionate response when compared to the delayed justice exhibited in the more pressing Rao Anwar extra-judicial murder case. In the end, the Sindh police ranks and its consistent shuffling remains a product of the tug-of-war between the Sindh provincial government and the establishment where such imperious demonstrations are only a re-inscription of the power nexuses in the polity rather than a restitution of impartiality in the police-bureaucratic-patronage network.