By Purushottam P. Khatri
Kathmandu, Jan. 11: Inspector General of Nepal Police Sarbendra Khanal is retiring on February 12, 2020 completing 22 months as the head of the institution. The government had appointed him 26th Inspector General of Nepal Police on April 10, 2018.
Looking at the IGP’s performance in these 22 months, senior and former police officers and some police personnel have expressed mixed reactions on whether he is completing his term successfully. As soon as he was appointed to the post of IGP, he had also made public his 10-point organisational priorities.
IGP Khanal, who joined the force as Police Inspector on February 11, 1990, had proven himself a competent police officer since he joined the institution. But once he reached the top post two years ago, his illustrious career drew both flak and appreciation, said some former police officers and security experts.
The top-rung police officers too have commented that due to the IGP’s ‘problematic working style,’ credibility of the entire police force has taken a hit.
Khanal had first hit the headlines for exposing the case of the international level football match fixing in which several Nepali national football players were involved, curbing gold smuggling and controlling notorious gangsters and criminal groups during his stint as police chief in the Terai districts and the Kathmandu Valley. They were some of the remarkable operations he had executed before he became DIG.
One of the police officers, who had resigned from the post of Police Inspector during IGP Khanal’s term, told The Rising Nepal on the condition of anonymity, “Hard working police officers did not get due recognition and credit. They toiled hard but Khanal took all credits. As the police chief, it was his responsibility to promote the worthy officers.”
He said that the behaviour and activities of IGP in the last few months have dented the confidence of the junior officers.
There are, of course, both positive and negative incidents that happened after Khanal reached the top post in police force. They include-
Community-Police Partnership: Launched directly under the command of IGP Khanal on October 28, 2018, this partnership programme is considered as one of the most successful and effective programmes launched during his tenure. Due to its effectiveness, today the programme reached all local body levels and grassroots community level where the community was itself given leadership in controlling all possible social crimes. This programme has helped Nepal Police significantly in reducing criminal activities in the society.
In the programme, 10,000 social organisations, 7.5 million students, 36,000 schools, thousands of teachers, 75,000 police personnel and four million guardians had directly involved. Under the same programme, the police in local levels are now demolishing all menstruation huts (Chhaugoth) to stop the ill social practices.
Alam’s arrest: The arrest of Mohammad Aftab Alam, lawmaker of Rautahat Constituency No 2, of Nepali Congress under murder charge, was another important act of police during Khanal’s term as an IGP. A special police team deployed from Kathmandu and another police squad led by DSP NabinKarki from Rautahat detained him, on the charge of his involvement in an explosion in Rajpur Kharadawa on 9 April 2008. Despite much hullaballoo, Alam was finally taken to a jail after a court also announced verdict against him.
Home Minister Thapa’s brother in custody: On the charge of extortion, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa’s younger brother Naresh Thapa was arrested on September 13, 2019, and had to spend a few days in police custody charging him of threatening contractors in connivance with jailed gangster Samir Man Singh Basnet. Extortion charge sheet was even filed at the Kathmandu District Court accusing him of making efforts for criminal benefits. This initiative happened during the leadership of IGP has given a clear message that Nepal Police don’t listen to powerful politician while controlling crime.
Similarly, there are some police officers who had highly respected the term of IGP Khanal.
DIG and spokesperson of Nepal Police Shailesh Thapa Kshetri said the term of IGP Khanal could be said to have been more productive than the tenure of any other IGPs of the past. His efforts to reopen the promotion list of lower ranked police personnel and up to senior level within these 22 months are praiseworthy.
Infrastructure development initiatives he had taken by beginning to construct new infrastructure within the Police Headquarters are other achievements made during his tenure as IGP.
Similarly, establishment of separate Women, Children and Senior Citizen Service Directorate, Cyber Bureu, and Anti Human Trafficking Bureau were also considered as the major tasks of his period. The Directorate was established to show togetherness with citizens in fighting all forms of gender-based violence in the country.
Khanal’s tenure is also marked by some failures:
Nirmala Pant’s murder case: Handling the case of rape-cum-murder of teenager Nirmala Pant in Kanchanpur district is pointed as one of the failure of IGP Khanal. Eighteen months have passed since the incident, but the culprits are still at large.
Nirmala Pant’s half-naked body was found on July 27, 2018 at a sugarcane field. On August 20, 2018 the police arrested and made one Dilip Singh Bista public claiming him to be the chief accused.
This case courted huge controversy with accusations that the police had tampered the evidence at the site of murder. Dilip Singh Bista was said to be tortured in custody to confess that he was the person involved in Pant’s murder. But Bista had to be freed after his DNA did not match. Although IGP Khanal boasted that the police force was about to close the case, it never happened.
Encounter of Kumar Poudel: The police during an operation killed Kumar Poudel belonging to Nepal Communist Party (Biplav Outfit) in an encounter in Sarlahi district in eastern Terai.
National Human Rights Commission investigated into the incident and recommended the government to take action against the implicated police officers.
The Commission’s recommendation report clearly mentioned that the incident was not an encounter but murder and there were errors in post-mortem report from a medico-legal perspective.
On the case, the Commission had even recommended the government to suspend Inspector Krishna Dev Prasad Sah as well as Police Constables Binod Sah and Satya Nayaran Mishra but they have not been suspended yet.
Former DIG Hemanta Malla said that some of the past records, including the case of Rautahat’s Farahadawa bomb explosion which had implicated Nepali Congress lawmaker Mohammad Aftab Alam, and dispute seen over taking credit of the incident between the IGP and concerned District Police Office, had surfaced among the public, after the District Police Office issued their separate press statement.
CIAA raids Police Headquarters: On September 6, 2019 a special team of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) raided the Police Headquarters in Naxal and took away all documents of past two years. Suspecting irregularities, the CIAA had taken away original documents about procurement of uniforms, vehicles and other goods. The case is, yet to get clean chits from the CIAA.
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