Bureaucrats wary of assisting Gill in new role

Updated April 08, 2019

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Dr Shahbaz Gill speaks to the press. — DawnNewsTV
Dr Shahbaz Gill speaks to the press. — DawnNewsTV

LAHORE: Already reluctant to indulge in matters relating to recruitment, finances and procurement to avoid questioning by NAB or courts, the bureaucracy in Punjab now wants to be clear about the legality of assisting Dr Shahbaz Gill in official matters.

Read: Punjab CM spokesperson’s new role smacks of political wrangling

“We want to know the legality, locus standi, of assisting Dr Shahbaz Gill as ordered by the chief minister. He is neither a government official nor an elected representative of people. We have been grilled by NAB and courts even for our lawful actions. And many of us do not want to be held responsible for actions taken by or under direction by the worthy Mr Gill,” a senior bureaucrat told Dawn.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, many civil servants said there was an unannounced strike by them in matters relating to recruitment, financial matters and procurements.

Officers say they want clarity about legality

“Nothing is being done in these sectors because they involve money and there is every likelihood of being dragged in courts or questioned by NAB on actions taken in these spheres lawfully and in public interest,” an official relating the finance department said.

Those having a direct knowledge of the state of affairs said the present government had not as yet taken any major initiative because of a lack of decision by the elected representatives and the reluctance of the civil servants whose major activity had been to answer court or NAB inquiries regarding the actions they or their predecessors took under directions by the previous Shahbaz Sharif government.

And they said chief minister’s March 22 direction to the top civil and police bureaucracy to facilitate Mr Gill in inspecting provincial departments and institutions of public service delivery across the province has created another confusion for them.

Officials said Mr Gill was sitting in the chief minister’s secretariat where only an elected representative of people or a duly deputed civil servant could function. Those assisting him or even providing him kitchen services have deep in their mind the question of the legality of their service. And they are also mindful of the chances of accounting for their service in case of a change in the regime.

They said officials in the Civil Secretariat and in the field have been asked to assist Mr Gill in the inspection of provincial departments and institutions of public service which they could not for a “common man” under the law. They could not also provide him official protocol, vehicles or other facilities because they were only for legally authorised persons.

“The official protocol book is for people having legal authority,” a senior police official said.

He and others said another question haunting their mind was the legality of sharing official information with Mr Gill. “Sharing any inside official meeting with unauthorised persons is illegal and liable to punishment under the law,” an official said.

Others said the government could share information with people under the Right to Information Act but only upon submitting requests as per the defined method. And in this case too, there is information that cannot be shared with them.

“A private person acting as an official person is a puzzle, please have it resolved as none of us wants to be shown on media handcuffed by NAB,” an official said.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2019