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‘Modernizing investigation is a must’ – BOL News

by Arifa Rana

Shahid Aslam Special Correspondent – Lahore
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Shahid Aslam Special Correspondent – Lahore
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‘Modernizing investigation is a must’
Deputy Inspector General of Police Muhammad Gohar Nafees is accustomed to facing new challenges every day. For the past two years, Gohar is heading the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Punjab, the provincial anti-watchdog of corruption.
Easily ranked among the most qualified police officials in the country, Nafees isa Fulbright scholar and completed his Masters in Government Administration from University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. He is also a qualified FBI National Academy Course 275 Quantico.
Back in 2000, armed with high aims and a confidence to boot, Nafees tried his luck at the provincial as well as central competitive exams and bagged second position in Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). He soon joined the Police Service of Pakistan and has not looked back since.
During his 20-year career in police service, he has served at various important positions including Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Multan and Faisalabad, District Police Officer (DPO) Kasur and Sialkot. He was DIG Gilgit Baltistan and Deputy Commandant Frontier Constabulary before getting appointed as DG ACE in 2019.
Bol News recently met Gohar Nafees to know more about his life and career and what continues to motivate him in his profession.
Q. Why did you choose police service and did anyone in the family guide you choosing it?
DIG Gohar Nafees: My family had no idea whatsoever about the competitive exams and which job I was going to get after clearing it. I have taken all my decisions on my own since childhood and Police was my first priority in the CSS exam as I have a passion to work for the department because there is lot of interaction with people where you can help them by delivering justice.
 
Q. What was your first reaction after your selection in CSS?
GN: When I appeared for the CSS exam, I was doing a job with a private firm in Lahore. In 1999, the country was passing through a tough phase and there were hardly any jobs in the engineering sector. Luckily I got an opportunity to join police which helped me earn a decent livelihood and support my family.
 
Q. Who is your inspiration or role
model in Police?
GN: Honestly speaking, I would say no one. I have no role model in the police department at all. Every police officer has a different set of approaches towards each matter but one thing which is common is upholding the law under which we all work.
Q. What has been the biggest achievement in your career so far?
GN: Achievement is a very relative term. For one, solving a tiny problem can be an achievement and for some solving a complex case can be an achievement. Everyday, people come to us and if we solve their problems without any delay, it can be a big achievement.
For me when I was posted at Kasur as DPO, a two and half year old child was brutally murdered after sodomy. It was a difficult case but we solved it in just a few days. I always give preference to deal with crimes against children, particularly kidnapping for ransom, etc and I believe they should be solved on absolute priority basis. I strongly feel for the sentiments of those families whose children go missing or are hurt.  That sort of trauma is unbearable.
 
Q. GN: Look, I was appointed on this post by the Punjab government and since PTI holds fort in the Center too, we have to follow the policy of the federal government as well. But, there is no truth in political victimization reports at all. There is absolutely no pressure from the government to follow any agenda.         The opponents of the PTI government say ACE Punjab is following government’s agenda and is involved in political victimization. Comment?
Since I have assumed office, ACE Punjab has registered more than 3000 cases and out of those, only 25 to 30 cases have been registered against politicians or political families. If we were involved in any kind of victimization, this number would have been much, much higher.
Secondly, all the cases registered against politicians are related to them illegally occupying state land of the province. We haven’t registered any fake cases and those are under trial at various courts.
 
Q. What is the performance of ACE Punjab since you took charge?
GN: From August 2018 till November 2021, ACE Punjab has arrested over 5850 accused government employees and recovered Rs 236 billion from them.
I have also managed to approve an investigation cost from the government which happened for the first time in the department’s history. Now investigation officers would also get paid for their investigation expenditures which would also add value in transparency of the department’s working and discourage malpractices. I want to proudly state that the work ACE has done during the past two years hasn’t been done during the last 50 to 60 years. We have over 75 new vehicles for our officers. However, ACE should have at least 45 buildings for its offices in the province but we have only five and the rest of the work is being done on rented buildings. Two new buildings are under construction and we will soon be getting more offices..
 
Q. But why is the conviction rate so low in anti-corruption cases?
GN: Let me say that it’s very technical work [here at ACE]. Investigation by provincial anti watchdog of corruption is being done under police rules. So officials coming from police easily handle such cases but it becomes a bit challenging for officials coming from other departments like revenue, etc to handle them.
Court charge the accused only after evidence is presented in a fair manner. We often have the evidence, but we don’t know how to present those in the court of law. That’s why we have started various initiatives including establishing RD&T to improve investigation skills of ACE officers.
Nevertheless, we have 81 convictions from August 2018 till November 2021 including one each of grade 17 and 16 employees and the rest of the convictions have been of low-grade employees from grade 1 to 15.
 
Q. So what will you list as the real
challenges at ACE?
GN: You see most people may not be aware of this but ACE has been working since 1961. However, for most part it has remained a dormant body and nobody cared much about this department which is proof that no one previously was serious about any kind of accountability.
Human resource has been the biggest challenge at ACE since it has to deal with the affairs of more than 50 government departments.
We have officials of ACE and similarly we have officers who come from PPSC and some also come from other departments on deputation. So all have different approaches and varying mindset. The real challenge is to change the mindset. It is a constant challenge. We need them to be on their toes and make rapid progress to achieve the desired results.
I would also like to add one more challenge here and that is the reputation and image of ACE in the eyes of the general public.
new buildings are under construction and we will soon be getting more offices..
 
Q. But why is the conviction rate so low in anti-corruption cases?
GN: Let me say that it’s very technical work [here at ACE]. Investigation by provincial anti watchdog of corruption is being done under police rules. So officials coming from police easily handle such cases but it becomes a bit challenging for officials coming from other departments like revenue, etc to handle them.
Court charge the accused only after evidence is presented in a fair manner. We often have the evidence, but we don’t know how to present those in the court of law. That’s why we have started various initiatives including establishing RD&T to improve investigation skills of ACE officers.
Nevertheless, we have 81 convictions from August 2018 till November 2021 including one each of grade 17 and 16 employees and the rest of the convictions have been of low-grade employees from grade 1 to 15.
 
Q. So what will you list as the real
challenges at ACE?
GN: You see most people may not be aware of this but ACE has been working since 1961. However, for most part it has remained a dormant body and nobody cared much about this department which is proof that no one previously was serious about any kind of accountability.
Human resource has been the biggest challenge at ACE since it has to deal with the affairs of more than 50 government departments.
We have officials of ACE and similarly we have officers who come from PPSC and some also come from other departments on deputation. So all have different approaches and varying mindset. The real challenge is to change the mindset. It is a constant challenge. We need them to be on their toes and make rapid progress to achieve the desired results.
I would also like to add one more challenge here and that is the reputation and image of ACE in the eyes of the general public. We’re doing our best to improve the reputation of ACE as well by having a hassle free and friendly atmosphere at our offices.
 
Q. Is it true that the anti-corruption department takes action only against low-grade employees?
GN: Frankly speaking, since I have taken over charge here, there is only one policy being followed and that is to take action against all the accused who are guilty of criminal acts regardless of their status or position or clout. We have arrested a sitting Commissioner [PAS] in the Rawalpindi Ring Road corruption case. Similarly, 13 PAS senior officers working in grades 18 to 21 are under investigation whereas one PSP of grade 18 is also under probe.
Similarly, one case of accused in grade 20, 16 in grade 19, 126 in grade 18 and 235 cases of accused in grade 17 are pending in courts. Moreover, four FIRs against grade 21, 14 against 20, 42 against 19, 154 against 18 and 232 FIRs are pending against grade 17 officers..
 
Q. How do you compare the working of ACE with FIA and NAB?
GN: There is no comparison of ACE with the rest of the premier investigation departments of the country. You can’t compare apples with oranges. Unlike ACE, both FIA and NAB have a vast scope with unlimited resources.
We’re doing our best to improve the reputation of ACE as well by having a hassle free and friendly atmosphere at our offices.
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