Punjab reshuffle

28 Nov 2019

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A GENERAL lack of direction in people-based development prevails in Punjab where the government has been continuously moving the bureaucracy around. There have been far too many transfers in the administration during the 15 months that Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has been in office. In fact, there has been no letup in transfers ever since the provincial administration was shuffled in anticipation of the July 2018 election. There was a big shake-up soon after Mr Buzdar took over, and since the start of this year, the bureaucracy has undergone further drastic rearrangements. All these changes have been justified in the name of the government’s avowed search for officials who are in sync with its ‘vision’. Meanwhile, the latest purge has hit the chief secretary and the inspector general of police. As other areas in the country struggle for a sufficient number of administrative officers to run their affairs, this is the fifth IGP for privileged Punjab where half a dozen higher education secretaries have come and gone during the current government’s tenure so far. Frequent departures and arrivals have also been seen in the departments of school and services. Every other day, a district police officer or some other senior police official is given his marching orders and told to prepare to take charge of law and order in another area, leading to inconsistency and inefficiency.

This unrest in administrative ranks is rooted in the insecurity inherent in the PTI government’s approach — not only in Punjab but elsewhere too. The issue is magnified in the latter province because of the perceived or real vulnerability of Mr Buzdar. The threat of a transfer order is all the more pronounced in times such as these when talk of the alleged incompetence of the provincial government and rumours about a possible replacement for the chief minister are at their loudest. Rulers tend to blame their bureaucratic teams for the challenges they face, and all these reshuffles over the last one year and three months demonstrate a clear PTI liking for the escape route. It is remarkable that Mr Buzdar, even when he is said to be up against a deadline to prove himself, hasn’t overcome the fear of being thwarted by pro-PML-N officers. Supposing that he is capable of it, it is a pity he has not tried to win their trust to ensure a better-governed Punjab.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2019