The Chief Secretary of Punjab Mr. Javed Mehmood has been dispatched on a long leave of absence after public and media pressure on the death of Col (R) Ikram.
In his place, the Chairman of Punjab government’s Planning Division, Mr. Sami Saeed will perform the duties of the top bureaucrat of the largest province of Pakistan. To facilitate that, the ruling provincial government led by PML-Nawaz party has promoted Saeed as Additional Chief Secretary of Punjab.
Col (Retd) Ikram, a war veteran, lost his life in a road accident after his motorbike was hit by the vehicle of Punjab chief secretary Mehmood. Initial investigations by the police and the bureaucracy was contested by the bereaved family, public and the media.
Thereafter the issue became a political hot potato.
A late night meeting headed by the Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif decided to send the Chief Secretary Mehmood on long leave to avoid his influence on the investigation of the accident case, a report has said.
The decision came after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited Col (r) Ikram’s residence over the weekend. Punjab Gov Salman Taseer also visited the residence of the deceased colonel and met with the bereaved family.
According to reports, the Sharif brothers took the decision jointly amid great pressure from the bereaved family and the civil society, demanding the removal of the head of the provincial bureaucratic machinery in order to ensure an impartial investigation in the case.
According to administrative rules, the Chief Secretary heads all law enforcing agencies in the province, leading to a potential conflict of interest in investigation of high-profile matters, or the very least a public perception of such a conflict of interest which in reality might develop at any stage.
The accident probe was being termed ‘partial’ and ‘unfair’ by Pakistani media.
The issue became so hotly debated that Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer had to personally visit the residence of the victim. Talking to media afterward Salman Taseer said that there seems to be “the law of jungle” prevalent in the province he is supposed to govern.
Colonel Retired Muhammad Ikram died in CM Hospital Lahore after he was allegedly hit by the Punjab Chief Secretary Javed Mehmood’s car. The retired colonel, a war veteran, was on his way to the Allama Iqbal University sub-campus on a motorcycle when he was allegedly struck by the official car carrying the Punjab Chief Secretary near Girja Chowk in Lahore.
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The chief secretary was returning from Lahore airport after seeing-off Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, media reports said.
According to reports, Chief Secretary Javed Mehmood left the retired colonel critically injured on the road. After the hit-and-run incident , the victim was rushed to CM Hospital where he later died.
Azam Ikram, son of the deceased, told an Urdu language news channel “Express News” that his family will spare no expense, and knock at every door to seek justice.
A vibrant and independent media subsequently took up the matter and automatically it turned into a case of public interest.
The investigation team, probing into the death of Colonel (Retd) Ikram was quick in declaring the Chief Secretary Punjab and his driver ‘not guilty’.
The family of the deceased has declared the investigations ‘partial’ and ‘unfair’.
The investigation team declared the Chief Secretary and his driver ‘not guilty’ as according to them their vehicle was within speed limit, observing that Col Ikram had in fact broken the traffic signal. The report also claims that the traffic warden and gunmen of the Chief Secretary took the injured Colonel to the CM Hospital.
The family of the deceased remains unsatisfied as they were not included in the investigation. Azam Ikram, son of late Col Ikram said, “justice cannot be served till the Chief Secretary is removed from his post.”
Punjab Chief Secretary’s car, which was involved in the accident, was impounded by the police for investigations after the media questioned why the motorcycle of the deceased was held by the authority and not the Chief Secretary’s car.
Following criticism by the media, the Lahore Police has arrested the driver allegedly responsible for the accident.
Even an FIR was not registered which is the right of every citizen, it has emerged.