A diehard activist of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Syed Zahoor Agha served as Balochistan governor for only nine months and left the office after setting many bad examples.
He was sworn in on July 9, 2021 but had to quit on April 13 on the insistence of the party leadership. Hailing from the Pishin area, Zahoor belongs to a rich family with lots of properties and businesses.
Zahoor had no political background but he was appointed as the governor as he is a trusted friend of National Assembly former deputy speaker Qasim Khan Suri. Suri is regarded as a close confidant of former premier Imran Khan.
After taking over the post, Zahoor started replacing heads of statutory bodies and public universities with party loyalists and his favourites. He then managed to get his discretionary funds enhanced from Rs5 million to 50 million.
Contrary to the normal procedure, he bypassed his military secretary and got Rs20 million in two installments through comptroller Mohammad Yaseen.
He had brought Yaseen on deputation from the provincial Services and General Administration Department. He also received both installments by himself without giving any record of expenditure.
Sources in the Governor House said normally the cash money of a secret fund is deposited with the cashier of Governor House and the governor gives direction for releasing the fund to the people who make requests for it.
All documentation is processed properly by maintaining the receipts of the recipients and the granting authority, the governor. However, no receipt of any grant to any needy or deserving person was available in the Governor House, the sources confirmed.
Comptroller Yaseen also asked the concerned department – the Home and Tribal Affairs Department – in a letter written by him on the pad of the military secretary to release the rest of the amount, Rs29 million.
However, the governor had to resign and couldn’t withdraw the rest of the amount. Though the total secret fund is spent during the whole financial year, Zahoor Agha spent 40% of it in the first quarter.
Despite numerous attempts, Agha neither attended the phone calls nor replied to text messages.
However when contacted Mohammad Yaseen said he on the order of the governor handed over Rs20 million in cash in two installments and obtained receipt for it. “Secret fund is a discretionary money spent on the discretion of the governor and he did that. I have nothing to do with it,” he added.
As soon as Agha left the Governor House, Military Secretary to Governor Tanveer Hussain wrote a letter to the Secretary and General Administration Department (S&GAD) asking for an inquiry into disbursement of Rs20 million of secret funds without his knowledge and permission, which, he wrote, is against the rules and regulations.
Agha also removed two vice chancellors—Prof Sajida Noreen of Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University and Dr Ali Nawaz Mengal of Sardar Chakar Khan University in Sibi. Prof Sajida was reinstated on the orders of the Balochistan High Court (BHC).
During her absence, Zahoor Agha ordered the cancellation of all work orders for construction at sub campuses of the women’s university in Pishin and Khuzdar.
The vice chancellor after her reinstatement ordered the cancellations of the work orders issued on the direction of the governor during her absence.
Mohammad Usman, the project director at the Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University, submitted an application to the Quetta’s Civil Line Police Station in early April alleging that Zahoor Agha summoned him in his office and insisted that he put his signature on an application against VC Sajida Noreen.
In the application, it had been alleged that the VC demanded Rs20 million from the project director for ongoing construction works. Upon his refusal, Usman claimed, the personal guards of the former governor beat them with the butts of their rifles.
In another irregularity, an advertisement was released on the direction of Agha to the local newspapers inviting applications for the posts of caretaker, deputy caretaker, electrician, cook and waiter.
There was no mention of the numbers of vacancies and their grades. The entire process of submission of applications, written tests and interviews was to be completed in just two days.
Interestingly, this ad appeared at a time when the PTI leadership was asking Agha to resign from the post. Later, the BHC issued a stay order on the recruitment process while hearing a constitutional petition.
After the formation of the PTI government in Islamabad, Imran Khan had selected Amanullah Yaseenzai, a retired chief justice of the BHC for this august office, probably because he did not find any person in his party suitable for the post.
Yaseenzai remained in office for two years and nine months but was asked to step down in the wake of repeated demands by the PTI workers and activists, who wanted to see a PTI loyalist assume the post.
These party activists were not happy with the way Governor Yaseenzai was running the office. They desired that the doors of the Governor House be opened to them and they could have the governor at their beck and call.
They wanted to use the governor’s office for posting and transfers in universities and appointments in the Balochistan Public Service Commission but Governor Yaseenzai did not allow them to encroach on his authority. Rather, he resisted every interference.
These “unhappy” workers used to complain to prime minister Imran Khan about the governor’s “behavior” whenever they got an opportunity. Qasim Suri and other office-bearers also lobbied within the high circles and ultimately Yaseenzai was sent packing.
There were many party loyalists having social status and credentials like Nawabzada Hamayun Jogezai, and Dr Munir Baloch whose names were recommended for the office of the governor.
Jogezai, a retired army officer and senior police officer with a strong tribal background, was considered the most suitable candidate for the posts. But Suri managed to convince Imran Khan that his friend Zahoor Agha was the right choice for the coveted position.
Zahoor and Suri were buddies from their school days. It was Suri who had brought Agha into the PTI’s fold. Interestingly, Agha had once launched a campaign for changing the PTI’s administrative structure in Balochistan by establishing two administrative units, south and north. Imran had rejected the idea.
He, along with Noor Mohammad Domar, now a senior minister in the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) government, had staged a demonstration in 2017 on the arrival of Imran Khan.
He had thrown eggs and rotten tomatoes at Imran’s vehicle when his motorcade was moving towards the city from the Quetta airport.
Later when the PTI chief’s motorcade was stuck due to the movement of the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif near Balochistan Millennium Mall, Agha laid a siege to Imran’s vehicle, insisting that he come out.
However, the armed guards of Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind, the party provincial head, had taken Agha into custody and also manhandled him. Imran also got furious over this behavior and directed the then PTI secretary general, Jahangir Tareen, to expel Agha from the party.
In a letter dated October 3, 2017, Tareen suspended Agha’s membership and sought an explanation. The party sources claimed that this membership couldn’t be restored until he entered the Governor House.
Since the PTI has seven lawmakers in the Balochistan Assembly, Qasim Suri lobbied for Agha to get him the party ticket for the Senate elections. Imran Khan, however, allotted the ticket to Abdul Qadir, an outsider probably on the recommendation of Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.
When the media made a hue and cry over allotment of the party ticket to an outsider, Imran Khan changed his mind. The party gave the ticket to Agha and withdrew the nomination of Qadir, a builder and developer who was said to be a business partner of Sadiq Sanjrani.
Qadir filed his nomination papers as an independent candidate and bagged eleven votes when he required nine. Zeenat Shawani, an MPA belonging to BAP, also voted for him. Zeenat was expelled from the party after an inquiry and investigation.
Balochistan MPAs particularly the electables are notorious for selling their votes during the Senate elections. Senate Chairman Sanjrani, who is famous for skills in wheeling and dealing “won the heart and mind” of Agha and convinced him to withdraw his nominations in favour of Qadir.
Sanjrani also asked the PTI leadership to pressure Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind, the party parliamentary leader in Balochistan Assembly, to ask his son, Sardar Khan Rind, to withdraw his nomination papers for the Senate seat. Rind succumbed to the pressure and his son withdrew in favour of Abdul Qadir.