THE Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in Punjab is under fire in the district these days even from party workers and leaders because of the transfer of the district coordination officer on political grounds.
Different segments of society, including traders, PML-N workers, clerics and dwellers of different areas, have staged protest rallies and set up camps at the Clock Tower to press the provincial government to cancel the transfer of former DCO Naseem Sadiq.
Sources privy to the development told Dawn a tug of war started between the two rival groups — one led by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and the other by Sher Ali — over an anti-encroachment operation launched by the former DCO.
The Rana group supported the former DCO while the Sher Ali group was opposing him. Sher Ali, father of MNA Abid Sher Ali and relative of Sharif brothers, had termed the operation biased and targeted.
Following the operation, Sher Ali contacted party’s top leadership and reportedly asked it to stop the DCO from demolishing the houses and establishments of people without any justification.
A tussle between Sher Ali and Mr Sadiq started when an anti-encroachment operation was launched by the district administration in Samanabad. A number of structures were razed during the operation, however, some of the structures believed to be owned by the law minister and his associates were allegedly spared.
In protest against the operation, Abid Sher Ali led a rally against the DCO and blocked traffic on Jhal Khanuana Road a couple of months ago.
The situation went from bad to worse when the former DCO imposed a ban on the issuance of registries for New Nazimabad, a locality developed by Sher Ali and one of his partners.
The DCO contended that a public playground could not be converted into a residential colony and besides the land was also disputed.
The former DCO also rejected the contents of an inquiry that was conducted on the issue of the land grab in Muslim Town. In the inquiry findings, some patwaris were penalised.
However, Mr Sadiq said how could a patwari alone play a vital role in land grab. He said senior officers were also responsible for the land grab.
Similarly, 400 kanals of Lyallpur Mills were also put on sale allegedly by the Sher Ali group. However, the former DCO rejected the proposal of establishing a colony on the land citing that it would create havoc for the nearby locality.
The DCO noted that the district government had hardly resolved the sanitation issue of Sir Syed Town and establishment of another colony on Lyallpur Mills premises would worsen the situation.
The former DCO had also got demolished some establishments on one side of Ciruclar Road. This operation alerted the traders of opposite sides who had established their shops on a drain having no legal rights.
This approach of Mr Sadiq enraged Mr Ali who again approached the PML-N leadership and complained against Mr Sadiq, saying he had been depriving people of their shelters.
Mr Ali asked the leadership to pull out Mr Sadiq from Faisalabad otherwise his approach would hit the party interests and cause an irreparable loss during the coming general elections.
Sources said on Oct 2 the group seeking the transfer of Mr Sadiq was informed that the officer had been transferred to Multan. However, the situation made the Punjab government withhold the order. However, after two days the Punjab government had to issue his transfer order even in the absence of the chief minister.
Following allegations levelled by Sher Ali against the former DCO, the Punjab government had deputed MNA Khurram Dastgir to ascertain the facts by meeting the people whose properties were demolished by Mr Sadiq.
Sources said Dastgir informed the CM that the DCO had razed a number of houses and payment was also not paid to the affected people in accordance with state laws.
The former DCO had launched various anti-encroachment operations and demolished a number of structures in different localities and even on main roads, including Jhang Road, Samundri Road, Jail Road, Narawala Road, Ghulam Mohammadabad, Khurrianwala Road, Circular Road, Chak 79 Road, Bakar Mandi Chowk, Bus Stand, Rajbah Road, Eidgah Road etc and redesigned different chowks considered to be congested for the routine traffic.
He arranged funds for such projects from different philanthropists of the city. He also converted a number of deserted places into public parks where a number of facilities like swings, lakes, jogging tracks, benches, umbrellas were provided. Besides, the DCO also set up a colony for the poor displaced during an anti-encroachment operation at Subhanallah Chowk, Ghulam Mohammadabad, a couple of months ago. All expenses on the construction of houses in the colony named Shahbaz Nagar were incurred by the philanthropists.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony of Shahbaz Nagar, the CM had termed Mr Sadiq an honest officer and said PML-N would seek his induction into the cabinet as MPA after his retirement.
Responding to allegations, Sher Ali said the transfer of the DCO was demanded by the party leadership because the officer had demolished hundreds of houses and shops in Samanabad, Jhang Road and Circular Road.
He said the government would provide shelter to the people rather than depriving them of their livelihood.
He said he had not demanded any favour from the former DCO and all localities, including New Nazimabad, Lyallpur Mills and Muslim Town, were legal. He said it was not correct that he had encroached upon a public park in New Nazimabad.
“I will give my entire property to the government if anyone can point out that I have ever grabbed any state land. I have nothing to do with the shops on Circular Road,” he added.
He said the former DCO intended to demolish hundreds of houses in Ghareebabad, a locality falling in the constituency of Abid Sher Ali, ignoring the facts that Nawaz Sharif had granted them ownership rights when he was the chief minister of Punjab.
Sher Ali said the DCO had demolished more than 400 houses in Samanabad, however, he did not touch the plaza of the law minister and MPA Nawaz Malik.
A district government officer, requesting anonymity, told Dawn the transfer of Mr Sadiq on political grounds was sufficient to realise that merit of job was to please the politicians rather than rendering services for public.
He said the government should get a survey conducted by a third party to ascertain the facts that what kind of services Mr Sadiq and his team had rendered for Faisalabad.