Amid fight against coronavirus, federal health secretary removed

Published March 12, 2020
While the health ministry is in the limelight due to novel coronavirus scare, federal health secretary Dr Syed Tauqir Hussain Shah was removed from the post on Wednesday. — Reuters/File
While the health ministry is in the limelight due to novel coronavirus scare, federal health secretary Dr Syed Tauqir Hussain Shah was removed from the post on Wednesday. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: While the health ministry is in the limelight due to novel coronavirus scare, federal health secretary Dr Syed Tauqir Hussain Shah was removed from the post on Wednesday.

This was the second such removal in a week as on March 4, the then health secretary Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik (BS-22) was removed and Dr Shah (BS-21) was appointed as the in-charge additional secretary.

Apparently, the latest change has come after the criticism made by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leader Dr Tahirul Qadri as Mr Shah was considered a close aide to former chief minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and had served as principal secretary to the former CM at the time of the Model Town operation in 2014.

Criticising the government on appointing Dr Shah, the PAT leader had said in a tweet: “The masterminds and perpetrators of #ModelTownMassacre were afraid of being caught during the past government but now they do not feel any fear during Imran Khan’s government.”

Tauqir was appointed only a week ago; official replacing him to retire in three months

“I am short of words to express deepest congratulations to Prime Minister Imran Khan on appointing the criminals and main characters involved in #ModelTownCase on even higher ranks during his own governance,” he had said in another tweet.

As per documents available with Dawn, Dr Shah is an officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service group and was previously serving as an officer on special duty at the Establishment Division.

According to a notification issued on Wednesday, Dr Tanveer Ahmed Qureshi, a BS-21 officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service group, has been appointed additional secretary (in-charge) of National Health Services (NHS) with immediate effect.

Mr Qureshi earlier worked as additional secretary of Petroleum Division.

An official of the Ministry of NHS, requesting not to be quoted, said both the secretaries were removed at a very crucial time as they were leading the efforts against coronavirus.

“The world has been keeping an eye on us because of the continuously increasing cases of coronavirus but unfortunately we are not even certain who will be the health secretary. Mr Shah was close to Shahbaz Sharif but he was very competent and within days had understood all the issues related to the ministry,” the official said.

“However, we are also hearing that the PTI social media team was not happy with his appointment as it was difficult to defend the appointment on social media,” he said.

“Moreover, we are hearing that Mr Qureshi will retire in three months so after that period, if Mr Qureshi is not replaced earlier, the government will be finding another health secretary,” he said.

When contacted, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said he had nothing to do with the appointment and removal of the health secretary.

“However I can surely say that it has nothing to do with the COVID-19 as all possible steps are being taken to control the disease,” he said. Asked whether Mr Qureshi would retire in three months, Dr Mirza said he was not aware of his age of superannuation.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2020

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