RAWALPINDI, July 20: The military rule is over, but its legacy lives on as elected government of Nawaz Sharif has appointed Major General as Director General Military Lands and Cantonments – a civilian post.
Apparently the federal government is still following the policies of former president Pervez Musharraf to run the affairs of defence ministry and its allied departments.
During the tenure of the former military dictator, a major general used to be appointed the director general of Military Lands and Cantonments (ML&C).
This major general ran the affairs of the military lands and cantonments. Although the military ruler’s era ended over five years ago, his legacy continues to live on. The civilian government has continued with the tradition of appointing a military man on a civilian post.
The present government has appointed Major General Mazhar Saleem Khan as the director general Military Lands and Cantonments for a period of two years.
The incumbent DG ML&C, Maj-Gen Tahir Masood, has been transferred to the General Headquarters (GHQ).
The appointment of new the director general from the military has raised concern among the civilian bureaucracy which is weighing various options to get back this post from the military.
“We have two options one to go to court against the decision and second is to create awareness among the politicians to help us bring back this post to civilian bureaucracy,” said a senior officials at Military Lands and Cantonments requesting not to be named.
He said that the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf appointed military officer to head the department which was supposed to protect the federal government’s lands in cantonment areas.
“According to 1973 constitution, all posts in the Military Lands and Cantonment Department are to be filled in through a nationwide competitive examination held by the Federal Public Service Commission and the post of DG was to be filled in through promotion of the officers of the group,” he said.
“Director General Military Lands and Cantonments Department is the head of the Local Government in Cantonments and exercise such other powers as may be delegated by the federal government,” he said.
The basic function of the director general is to protect the rights of federal government and control its lands and coordinate with the users including armed forces but in the strange move, the user (Pakistan Army) man appointed as head of the department.
“Due to the appointment of military man, many senior and talented civil bureaucrats retired without reaching at the top level of their department.
“The last civilian Director General of Military Lands and Cantonments was Abdul Naeem Khan who worked till October 1999 but soon after the military coup, Pervez Musharraf appointed his trusted man Major General Javed Iqbal as the DG ML&C,” he said. He said that the civilian officials had started lobbying with the politicians to bring the post back to civilian officials.
The matter of appointment of military man against the civilian post was also echoed in upper house of the parliament when Senator Farhatullah Babar brought the matter there.
When contacted, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar told Dawn that posting a serving military officer against a civilian post is illegal.
“The Director Military Lands and Cantonments represents the owner of land namely the federal government and on its behalf regulates the use of land by military which is a user. A serving military officer working as DG ML&C amounts to making the user of state land also its regulator,” he said.
Mr Babar said, “It is an example of bad governance. The continued holding of a civilian post by a uniformed officer unaccountable to civilian government is a recipe to demoralise civil service, weaken civilian structures and contribute to erosion of state institutions”.
PPP Senator said that this issue had also been raised in the Senate. “One hopes that courts will also take notice,” he said.
When contacted, PML-N MNA Malik Abrar confirmed that many civilian officials contacted the party MNAs seeking removal of the military officer from the civilian post.
“The federal government has appointed the military man against this seat but there are some discussions still going on within the party to appoint a civilian man as Director General Military Lands and Cantonments,” he said.
He said that the PML-N led government was working to clean the mess created by the military dictator and it will take few months.