Punjab CM spokesperson’s new role smacks of political wrangling

Published April 1, 2019
Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s decision to empower his spokesperson Dr Shahbaz Gill to inspect government departments and institutions on his behalf is being viewed as the weakening of an ‘already weak’ chief minister in Punjab. —  File/Twitter
Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s decision to empower his spokesperson Dr Shahbaz Gill to inspect government departments and institutions on his behalf is being viewed as the weakening of an ‘already weak’ chief minister in Punjab. — File/Twitter

LAHORE: Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s decision to empower his spokesperson Dr Shahbaz Gill to inspect government departments and institutions on his behalf is being viewed as the weakening of an ‘already weak’ chief minister in Punjab.

The chief minister office had issued the order on March 22 directing the top civil and police bureaucracy to facilitate him for the inspection of provincial departments and institutions of public service delivery across the province.

Sources say the chief minister has already been restricted to his office to meet people or visit Panahgahs to mingle with the downtrodden segment of society and attend events occasionally. They say rumours are rife that the major decisions are being taken from somewhere else.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan himself is dictating major decisions to Mr Buzdar or different power centres in the province,” a source said.

Sources said the prime minister had decided to clip powers and send him off gradually when he had summoned Mr Buzdar to Islamabad on March 18 and rebuked him for his failure to get a bill in the Punjab Assembly blocked that offered exorbitant increase in the salaries and perks to the Punjab lawmakers.

Read more:PM Khan expresses 'disappointment' at Punjab lawmakers' decision to raise their own salaries

Meanwhile, a news channel reported that the prime minister during his Lahore visit on Saturday told Mr Buzdar that Dr Gill under the supervision of his (PM’s) special assistant Naeemul Haq would look after major issues in Punjab.

There is a strong perception about cracks between the PTI and its allies in the province particularly the PML-Q. Sources said the chief minister’s order in question was unlawful as Dr Gill had no official portfolio to inspect government departments and he also lacked any such experience.

“This order will not only weaken the chief minister but is also against the decorum of the office of the chief minister,” a source said.

On the other hand, the sources said this new exercise by Dr Gill would greatly affect his original duty of being spokesperson of the chief minister.

On Saturday last, Dr Gill had inspected a girls school in Sahiwal and tweeted late night that the overall situation of the school was better but there were some problems including the fact that students were found weak in mathematics. He stated that the headmistress was not available at the time of inspection and teachers had left classes before time. He said there was unavailability of water in the school ground.

And on Sunday afternoon, Dr Gill tweeted that Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had directed him to visit government departments and submit report to him. Stating that the chief minister is the captain of Punjab and believes in direct contact with the public, he averred, “I will fulfill my duties assigned by the captain”.

The chief minister office order said the Punjab government had launched various initiatives and introduced a set of reforms for ensuring good governance and improvement in delivery of public service as per the vision of the prime minister. It said those initiatives and reforms needed to be visited and supervised and that was why Dr Gill was authorised to inspect government departments and institutions.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2019

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