LAHORE: Shifting of the Rescue 1122 headquarters to the Punjab Emergency Services Academy last week has started a power struggle at the country’s largest rescue organisation with the top officials now daggers drawn over the control of the academy.
A home department official seeking anonymity told The Express Tribune that the dispute between the directors related to their domains and a fight for supremacy that had been posed as a fight for territory.
The officer rejected the impression that the dispute stemmed from the matter of shifting offices.
In a surprise turn of events to gain influence, officers at Rescue 1122 headquarters led by their director-general Rizwan Naseer shifted their offices to the Emergency Services Academy (ESA) Wednesday night.
The shifting came despite ESA chief Amir Hamza’s request to defer the move till an ongoing international training programme at the academy finished on January 12.
Terming the move a ‘coup’, ESA Director-General Ameer Hamza said the organisation had received a letter from the Rescue 1122 regarding the shifting of their headquarters.
In his reply, he stated the academy was in an ‘infant’ stage and lacked capacity to accommodate any offices as it was already overcrowded due to many ongoing courses.
Despite calling the move least desirable, the DG requested them to shift the offices to the Instructors Block after January 13, as an ongoing international course was to conclude on January 12.
A copy of the letter was also sent to the home secretary.
Hamza alleged the Rescue 1122 officers shifted the offices of the headquarters to the academy after entering forcibly and occupying the admin block on Wednesday night.
Earlier on Monday last week, he claimed all the officers of Rescue 1122 led by Dr Rizwan had arrived at the ESA without informing the academy. “They forcibly occupied our conference room, disrupted all the training going on there,” he said. “The home department was informed and the additional secretary arrived at the spot to help evacuate the premises.”
The Additional Home Secretary confirmed the event, saying his job was to convey the home secretary’s message and bring both parties to the secretariat for resolving the matter. “I did my job,” he added.
DG Hamza claimed in last week of December, the ESA held a concluding ceremony of an international training conference and invited many guests. Dr Rizwan arrived at the place uninvited but to avoid confrontation, Hamza informed the home secretary, who advised him to cancel the ceremony.
While he announced the ceremony’s cancellation, Dr Rizwan carried on with the event forcibly and also issued a press handout of the concluding ceremony.
The ESA is an autonomous and statutory organisation, responsible for training of rescuers throughout Pakistan. While Hamza, a PhD scholar in disaster management, was appointed by the Punjab government as the head of the academy, Dr Rizwan was appointed the Rescue 1122 director-general.
The Rescue 1122 chief defended his decision to shift offices, saying the plan to shift the headquarters had been in place for a long time as the building was in a dilapidated condition. The plan had been discussed with the home department and the offices were shifted to vacant places at the academy.
“This will strengthen the academy and no one needs to feel insecure,” he said while referring to Hamza’s comments.
He also brushed aside the accusations of a coup, saying the ESA was an integral part of the rescue services established under the Punjab Emergency Act.
About the cancellation of the international conference ceremony, DG Rizwan said the event was never cancelled at all and as the chief of Rescue 1122 it was his duty to go there and overview their performance.
On the allegations of conspiring against Hamza to stop his extension in service, he said the ESA chief should not worry at all if he was ‘clean’. “One cannot ignore irregularities to maintain standards of the service,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2017.