LAHORE, Sept 25: A ‘public affairs’ unit has been established in the chief minister’s secretariat under MNA Hamza Shahbaz to handle major affairs of the provincial government which nevertheless clarifies that it is not aimed at vesting massive powers in an individual.

Sources claimed that through the unit, Mr Hamza will actually practice the art of ruling.

A section of the press on Wednesday reported the establishment of a committee under Hamza, saying he was going to effectively act as a deputy chief minister of Punjab. The same day, a spokesman for the Punjab government sought to dispel the ‘impression’ created by the news item. It did concede though that a unit had been created “to ensure effective delivery of key public services and prompt resolution of genuine public grievances”. The stated job of the unit was to coordinate the efforts of stakeholders including elected representatives, government officials and civil society.

“The unit shall act as a forum to facilitate a deliberative process including stakeholder consultation, and engage elected representatives, civil society, opinion-makers, and government officials to make concerted efforts for community development, promote good governance, maintenance of public safety, prevention of crime, and timely completion of developmental projects.”

The mandate of the unit includes rapid mobilisation of all sections of society to play a coordinated role in response to natural calamities, untoward incidents, and public emergencies for their quick and effective resolution.

The unit shall be managed by a committee of elected representatives, public officials and representatives of civil society, and none of its members shall by virtue of such office is entitled to draw any salary or avail any personal privileges or benefits.

The use of official premises or resources by the unit or its committee shall be restricted to carrying out its functions only. The current members of the committee include MPA Manshaullah Butt, MNA Mehr Ishtiaq, former MNA Saud Majeed, Advocate Syed Ali Raza, MNA Hamza Shahbaz and the officials concerned.

The spokesperson also clarified that it would be unreasonable to suggest that any special powers had been granted to any individual. On the contrary, the unit was created in good faith to coordinate the efforts of all stakeholders in order to tackle the critical developmental challenges faced by the country, he added.

Sources told Dawn that the unit had been created to look after matters the chief minister was unable to fully handle because of his pre-occupation in Islamabad, his focus on the energy crisis and his foreign tours.

They said the chief minister was also somewhat restricted since his return from Turkey because of a backache. He received British Home Secretary Theresa May at his Model Town residence on Wednesday and it was his first appearance ever since his return from Turkey.

They said the responsibility of handling some party and government affairs was earlier given to Zulfikar Khosa during the previous government of Shahbaz Sharif. Now, Khosa was no more involved in any provincial government matter.

After Hamza, the second man the chief minister “could” entrust the task with was Rana Sanaullah but he too was busy in dealing with law and order issues and the expected local elections, a source said.

They said the unit which Mr Hamza was heading had a recommendatory role in theory. However, given how the system works here these recommendations could turn out to be of a binding nature.

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