Punjab govt puts bureaucracy in disarray

Hassan NaqviReporter

31st Aug, 2021. 11:52 am
Usman Buzdar DG Khan accident

LAHORE. Heads have been continually rolling at key government departments during the three-year rule of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, a situation that has put the provincial bureaucracy in disarray.

In the last three years, the Punjab government has replaced four chief secretaries, six inspector generals of police (IGPs), five principal secretaries to CM, four secretaries interior, three secretaries information, eight secretaries irrigation, six secretaries of specialized healthcare and medical education, eleven secretaries higher education and many other secretaries in other departments.

When the Buzdar-led government took charge of the Punjab government in August 2018, Akbar Hussain Durrani was serving as Punjab chief secretary (CS).

Durrani, who was appointed in June 2018, was removed by Prime Minister Imran Khan in October 2018 and was replaced by Yousaf Naseem Khohkar, a BS-22 officer of Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS).

The government, however, replaced Khohkar in November 2019 with another BS-22 officer of the (PAS), Major (retd) Azam Suleman Khan.

Khan could serve as Punjab CS just for five months and was replaced by Jawad Rafique Malik, another BS-22 officer from the PAS. Interestingly, Malik was the batch-mate of former premier Nawaz Sharif’s principal secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad from the 15th Common Training Programme (CTP) of PAS.

A senior bureaucrat from the PAS told Bol News that the Punjab CS is the highest-ranking official of the province and its bureaucratic chief.

“The appointment of the CS is made by the prime minister. This position is equivalent to the rank of federal secretary and usually the chief secretaries are appointed from PAS,” he said.

He said the Punjab CS is a key position as he is the administrative boss of the province as all the administrative secretaries and divisional commissioner directly report to the CS who is accountable to the CM although he is not under the charge of the CM as only the premier can appoint or replace him.

“The CS also serves as the chief adviser to the CM and as secretary to the provincial cabinet but unfortunately, the PTI government hasn’t given ample time to them to settle down, understand the dynamics of the position and start delivering.

“We have the example of Major (retd) Azam Suleman Khan who was replaced in just five months when he actually started to make progress after understanding the dynamics of the key position. This is a strange situation,” said the officer.

In the last three years of its rule, the PTI led federal government has also replaced six IGPs in Punjab in consultation with CM Buzdar. When Buzdar took charge as the CM, Dr Syed Kaleem Imam was serving as the IGP, he was appointed on June 13, 2018 and was removed on September 11, 2018 and was replaced by another upright officer from the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) Muhammad Tahir.

Tahir belonged to 16th CTP and had previously served as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s IGP. He only served as Punjab IGP for a month and was removed from the post on October 15, 2018.

“It is quite unfortunate and shocking to see that an upright, honest and dutiful officer like Muhammad Tahir was replaced in four weeks and he wasn’t given the time to deliver. This speaks volume about the way bureaucracy is dealt with,” a senior police officer told Bol News.

According to sources, Tahir was replaced as the government had started believing that he was unable to carry out the tasks required from him as the Provincial Police Officer (PPO). “How could they judge the performance of an IGP in just four months?” a senior police officer asked while speaking to Bol News.

K-P former IGP Nasir Khan Durrani – who was another upright officer – had tendered his resignation as the chairman of the Police Reforms Commission in protest against the premature transfer of Tahir.

Tahir was replaced by Amjad Javed Saleemi who served as the Punjab IGP from October 15, 2018 to April 17, 2019 again after serving just for six months as the PPO.

Saleemi was replaced by Captain (retd) Arif Nawaz, who was also transferred after seven months on November 28, 2019 and was replaced by Shoaib Dastagir who took charge as the PPO/IGP on November 28, 2019.

Dastagir was removed on September 9, 2020, after he refused to work under the PTI government over the appointment of Umar Sheikh as the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) without his consultation and asked the CM to transfer Sheikh but instead Buzdar transferred him from his post.

Dastagir was replaced by Inam Ghani as the IGP on September 9, 2020. He is a BS-21 officer and has been serving against the senior position of the BS-22.

CM Buzdar has also replaced four interior/home secretaries in Punjab including Fazeel Asghar, Ali Murtaza, Momin Ali Agha and Zafar Nasarullah Khan. Three Information secretaries were also replaced during the period under review including Bilal Butt, Momin Ali Agha and Raja Jahangir.

A senior bureaucrat told Bol News that when the PTI came to power education and health were said to be its top priorities. During the last three years, the CM Buzdar government replaced eleven secretaries.

When Buzdar took charge Khalid Saleem was serving as secretary higher education and he replaced him in October 2018 with Sarah Saeed who served from October 2018 till December 2019.

Saeed was replaced by Captain (retd) Muhammad Mahmood, who was appointed in February 2019 and was replaced in the same month by Momin Agha. Agha was also not given the time to settle down or deliver and he was replaced in April 2019 just two months after his appointment.

“How do they expect us to introduce reforms, uplift the departments and bring improvement when we are hardly given the time to deliver,” a senior bureaucrat told Bol News.

Agha was replaced by Dr Raheal Ahmed Siddiqui (May2019-Oct 2019); Sajid Zafar Daal (Oct 2019 – April 2020; Dec 2019 – Feb 2019 addition charge); Sarah Aslam (Apr 2020-Apr 2020); Zulfiqar Ahmad Ghumman (April 2020-Aug 2020); Naeem Ghuas (Aug 2020 – Sep 2020 additional charge); Irum Bukhari (Dec 2020 – Dec 2020 addition charge; Oct 2020 – Dec 2020 additional chief secretary; Sep 2020 – Oct 2020); Nadeem Mahbub (Dec 2020 – July 2021) and Syed Javed Iqbal Bukhari (Aug 2021-to date).

Same is the case with other departments, four local government secretaries – Noorul Amin Mengal, Ahmed Javed, Tahir Khurshid and Captain (retd) Saif Anjum.

Buzdar also replaced his five principal secretaries including Raheel Siddiqui, Dr Shoaib, Iftikhr Ali Sahoo and Tahir Khurhid. Muhammad Aamir Jan is serving as the principal secretary to the CM right now.

During the period under review, Buzdar replaced nine secretaries of irrigation department – Captain (retd) Sher Alam Mehsud, Ali Murtaza, Captain (retd) Saif Anjum, Ali Murtaza (second term), Saif Anjum (second term), Zahid Zaman, Ahmad Javed Qazi and Muhammad Aamir Jan. Muhammad Asadullah Khan is currently serving as the Punjab secretary irrigation.

Six secretaries of specialized health were replaced during Buzdar’s tenure. These were Saqib Zafar, Momin Ali Agha, Nabeel Awan, Muhammad Aamir Jan, Sarah Aslam and Ahmad Javed Qazi.

During the period, the Punjab government changed five commissioners and six deputy commissioners in Lahore. The five commissioners were Abdullah Sumbal, Asif Bilal Lodhi, Captain Saif Anjum, Zulfiqar Ghumman and Captain (retd) Usman.

Sumair Saeed, Saliha Saeed, Asghar Joyia, Danish Afzal, Muddasir Riaz and Umar Sheikh Chattha served as Lahore deputy commissioners in the last three years.

A senior bureaucrat said according to the Rules of Business Schedule IV and Civil Servants Act, the tenure of posting has to be three years but unfortunately this rule is not followed. “The bureaucracy is in shambles because of this. The bureaucrats are not given ample time to deliver,” he said.

“The federal and provincial governments could change any bureaucrat from the post before three years but there must be a plausible reason for that,” he added.

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