Of KP chief secretaries and the incumbent

Updated 13 Nov 2019


Dr Kazim Niaz. — Dawn
Dr Kazim Niaz. — Dawn

It would be a record of sort for the PTI that during its six years and three months rule in KP, it has had to endure and work with six chief secretaries; this would make the average tenure of the top executive officer of this province to roughly about a year – not a very long period to create a sense of bonhomie and working relationship between the two pillars of powers to steer the province in the right direction.

The irony is that seldom are there any frictions over policy matters. Problems invariably crop up over transfers and postings and interference from the top in matters related to administration and field postings. And so, the ending for most of the top bureaucrats has never been a happy one.

Look at the chart. Mohammad Shehzad Arbab, who was brought in riding the chariot of reform agenda at the very outset of the Pervez Khattak-led government, has had to write a damning riposte to his political boss’s blatant interference that ended in his unceremonious exit from KP. His tenure lasted roughly 10 months.

Enter Amjad Ali Khan, the tall, burly, straight-shooting bureaucrat with vast experience at the federal and provincial level. A seasoned player, he played deftly but it soon emerged that he was faced with an equally adept player Pervez Khattak and therefore, what ensued was an acrimonious relationship that resulted in a slew of intrigues that would even dwarf Byzantinian conspiracies.

I’ll give it my best shot, says new chief secretary

Both the gentlemen enjoyed Imran Khan’s trust and were hoisted upon PK much against his wishes and comfort. Amjad too, had had to leave after putting up a brave fight against onslaught.

In walked Abid Saeed. His tenure lasted ten months and left without making much of an impression and legacy.

Then came Mohammad Azam Khan. Weary of Azam Khan’s reputation as a no-nonsense officer, it would take a lot of cajoling and persuasion to convince PK to swallow the bitter pill. Their relationship remained difficult and tenuous. Luckily, PK wouldn’t have to wait too long to see the back of yet another chief secretary. Elections came and Azam had to leave the office for the caretakers to post his successor.

Naveed Kamran Baloch remained KP’s chief secretary eight months, serving Mehmood Khan’s government for nearly five months before he was replaced by Salim Khan, who hung up his boots on his retirement last month after serving his native province for eight months.

Taking over the reins at the civil secretariat now is Dr Kazim Niaz. A native of Rajjar, Charsadda district, and son of a well-known literary figure, the late Prof Jehanzeb Niaz, he is no novice to KP, having served here both in the erstwhile Fata as well as KP for eleven or so years.

His 26 years in civil service has taken him to serve in Punjab, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. His last assignment was in the federal government, Islamabad. A medical doctor by qualification, he topped CSS exam among candidates from what used to be called NWFP and stood third throughout Pakistan.

He has an MBA degree from the University of Birmingham, UK, and master’s in Political Science from the University of Peshawar.

In addition, he has to his credit awards and scholarships in environmental leadership, conflict resolution and health emergencies from USA and UK. He is considered as a first rate officer: competent and upright. Few would know that he is the main spirit behind a charity school for street children in a slum area in Peshawar.

Inducted into the civil service in 1993, Kazim has incidentally become the youngest chief secretary this province has ever had. And therefore, the goals he has set for himself are pretty broad – good governance, improvement in public service delivery, pushing the reform agenda, propping up the newly merged tribal districts, boosting tourism potential, promoting culture and literature and overcoming and reining in polio cases are amongst them.

It is a challenging undertaking. Governance that has seen tremendous improvement in PK’s last year in office, has taken a nosedive. The gains made in that period have, unfortunately, gone awry.

The system is largely dysfunctional and unresponsive.

Getting the slumbering bureaucratic machinery back into motion with just a handful of good and competent officers will be a gigantic challenge.

The decay in the quality of officers, whose number has overgrown the competent few, complicated and mired further by trade unionism-like situation, turning the officialdom into an us-versus-them conflagration, wouldn’t make his task any bit easy.

But he is neither a novice nor is he naïve. “I will give it my best shot,” he says. “Can only strive and leave the rest to Almighty.”

He is lucky on one count though. His political boss is a gentleman, who has yet to learn the ropes of power politics, unlike his predecessor, who was a master at the game. But it wouldn’t take long for this honeymoon to last, given the dynamics of political power and competing forces within.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2019