Punjab CM removes information minister, once again, on PM’s intervention

Updated July 20, 2019


Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar (C). — Online/File
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar (C). — Online/File

LAHORE: Unhappy with information minister Samsam Bukhari’s performance for not attacking the opposition, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, withdrew the portfolio from him besides reassigning portfolios to five other ministers.

The reshuffle in the cabinet has, once again, strengthened the allegation of the opposition that PM Khan is himself running the affairs of Punjab and Mr Buzdar is nothing but a yes-man. Mr Buzdar shuffled the six ministers’ portfolios on Friday, following a one-to-one meeting with the PM at his office on Thursday afternoon.

The Punjab government’s first choice was Fayyazul Hassan Chohan for being vocal against the opposition but he was shown the door on the prime minister’s instructions following his offensive comments about Hindu minority.

The Punjab government had inducted Samsam Bukhari on March 6 with the responsibility to keep assaulting the opposition but he had, in his maiden presser same day, stated that ‘my language and tone will be different,’ referring to his predecessor Mr Chohan.

Besides Samsam Bukhari, five other ministers reassigned portfolios

By the end of May, the Punjab government had to notify some 40 spokespersons, including ministers and party workers with a ‘special task’ to take on the PML-N leadership, especially Maryam Nawaz for her aggressive stance against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Lately, the government felt compelled to issue political statements on behalf of CM Buzdar.

In the latest notification, Samsam Bukhari has been assigned the portfolio of consolidation of holdings while Industries, Commerce and Investment Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal has been given the additional charge of the information and culture department. Mr Iqbal is also considered a vocal person in the party.

In an interesting move, most important local Government and Community Development (LG&CD) Department has been withdrawn from Law Minister Basharat Raja who was holding its additional charge.

CM Buzdar has not assigned the LG&CD portfolio to any minister and kept it with himself along with forestry, wildlife and fisheries department.

The LG&CD is considered the most important department in view of implementing PM Khan’s vision of devolving powers to the grassroots. The department was given to Mr Khan’s close aide Abdul Aleem Khan who was vying to become a senior minister after the prime minister had chosen Buzdar as the chief minister. However, Aleem Khan had voluntarily resigned after he was arrested by NAB on the charges of assets beyond means and holding off-shore companies.

Following investigations under physical remand, Aleem was granted bail on May 15. However, he was denied any ministry and the sources claimed that he would not insist on getting the ministry. Aleem has again been kept away in the latest cabinet portfolios – over two months after his release on bail.

Law Minister Basharat Raja’s close aides do not see withdrawal of additional charge of LG&CD department portfolio from Mr Raja as a big deal, saying that the portfolio did not go to any minister. Since the portfolio will remain with the chief minister, they say, Mr Raja would continue looking after the department as he was looking after the affairs of the Planning and Development (P&D) and home departments – the two portfolios already with the chief minister.

Law Minister Basharat Raja had been assigned the social welfare and Baitul Maal department portfolio, leaving Muhammad Ajmal Cheema with no portfolio. Mr Ajmal has been sidelined with the offer of the pos of the head of the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team.

Sources say the number of complaints against social welfare minister Ajmal Cheema was growing owing to massive reshuffle of employees in the department and extraordinary support for the department’s Director General Afshan Kiran Imtiaz.

Mr Cheema had did not let Ms Imtiaz relinquish the charge for over one-and-a-half-month despite her two transfer orders by the Punjab government. Ms Imtiaz, an ex-PCS BPS-20 officer, was transferred on Jan 26 and directed her to report to the S&GAD and five days later, she was posted as director Provincial Consumer Protection Council Secretariat. However, she did not relinquish her charge and continued performing as the DG of the Social Welfare Department.

Minister Mr Cheema was able to get her two transfer orders reverted on March 13 and retained her as social welfare department DG.

Only a couple of days ago, the Social Welfare Department secretary had admonished her for acting beyond her jurisdiction of transferring and posting officers of BPS-17 and above without approval or intimation to the competent authority. The secretary, on July 16, directed the DG to cancel all such transfers and send proposals for transfer/posting, if needed.

Higher Education Minister Raja Yasir Humayun has been stripped off his tourism ministry and the portfolio has been given to Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Muhammad Taimoor Khan. It may be mentioned that the youth affairs, sports, archaeology and tourism sectors fall in one administrative department; therefore, consolidated under one minister.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2019