GUJRAT: Was there any merit or criteria behind the recent large scale reshuffle in the Punjab bureaucracy or it was an attempt to hide shortcomings of political setup ruling the province?
If one goes through the official posting and transfer notification issued on Friday, the political motive seems to have weight as there was no change in Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Jhelum and Hafizabad, the districts belonging to political heavyweights of the PTI and its ally, the PML-Q.
Practically, Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin districts are the PML-Q domain in administrative terms where ruling PTI lawmakers would often lodge protest with their party leadership for being overlooked by the deputy commissioners, district police officers and officers of other government departments even in the affairs of constituencies won by the PTI.
An official source said that any transfer and posting of administrative and police officers in both these districts could never be made without the prior consent of Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and his scion, MNA Chaudhry Moonis Elahi. Both the father and son negotiate with the the PTI’s top leadership and its chief minister in Punjab Usman Buzdar.
“So far the PML-Q feels comfortable with the police and administration in both these districts,” said a source.
Though the PML-Q has only one lawmaker from Mandi Bahauddin -- Sajid Ahmed Bhatti, the nephew of Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti -- who joined the Q League after winning a Punjab Assembly seat in the 2018 general election as an independent but the party is in command of the district whereas the PTI had won one NA and a PA seat.
Interestingly, PML-N lawmakers from Mandi Bahauddin, including MNA Nasir Iqbal Bosal and MPA Hameeda Waheeduddin, too, have a good working relationship with the PML-Q’s Bhatti group as Bosal and Bhatti groups have been allies in the local politics of the district.
Gujrat is the native district of PML-Q leaders, former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, where the party had won two NA and three PA seats whereas the PTI had bagged one NA and four PA seats in 2018.
A delegation of all PTI MPAs from Gujrat district -- Saleem Sarwar Jaura of Gujrat city, Mian Akhtar Hayat of Dinga, Chaudhry Arshad of Sara-i-Alamgir and Liaqat Bhadar of Kharian -- had called on the Punjab chief minister on Nov 19 last in Lahore and lodged complaints of being overlooked by the police and administration regarding the issues related to their constituencies.
They also complained that the government officers would accommodate the PML-Q demands in the affairs of the constituencies that had been won by the PTI which was not justified at all.
Sources said that MPAs Saleem Jaura and Chaudhry Arshad were more vocal as they told the CM that this situation could never augur well for the party in the future electoral politics of Gujrat.
The source said the chief minister promised to address their grievances and issued directions to the then chief secretary and IGP. Following the meeting, the officers concerned in the district had approached these lawmakers to listen to their issues.
Two days later (Nov 21), a PML-Q delegation led by Pervez Elahi met with the chief minister and discussed the issues relating to the constituencies of the Q legislators.
A PML-Q leader had earlier told Dawn that both the coalition partners in Punjab and federal government had agreed upon a power-sharing formula in Punjab according to which the PML-Q would have absolute say in the affairs of Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin districts which had to be followed by the provincial government.
He said the PML-Q and PTI had contested the 2018 general elections under a seat adjustment formula. He said the PML-Q had organisational structures and workers at the gross roots level in constituencies won by the PTI so there should be no-objection if Q leadership focused on strengthening its cadre there.
However, a senior administrative officer told Dawn that the police and administration were bound to follow the instructions from the government regarding the policy of dealing with the lawmakers of both the coalition partners and the policy was said to be that the PML-Q would be given preference in case of any tie between the lawmakers of both the coalition partners.
Allaying apprehensions of the PTI lawmakers, the officer said that the legitimate demands of PTI lawmakers had always been given due respect in the government departments of Gujrat. He said a fresh tug of war between the lawmakers of coalition partners was actually caused by reports of coming local government elections in the near future as both the parties wanted to dominate the exercise.
Similarly, there was no reshuffle in Jhelum and Hafizabad districts where the local PTI lawmakers are said to be mainly happy with the existing arrangement.
In Jhelum, federal minister for science and technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain and his cousin Chaudhry Farrukh Altaf, also a PTI MNA, are in total control of the affairs of the district whereas in Hafizabad district, ex-MNA Mehdi Bhatti group that belongs to the PTI dominates affairs of their district as the lone NA seat of the district was won by Mr Bhatti’s scion.
Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2019