LAHORE/BAHAWALPUR: The Punjab government has finally taken the first concrete step as it approved creation of 385 posts, including an additional chief secretary (ACS) and additional Inspector-General (AIG) Punjab, to make the proposed South Punjab civil secretariat functional on July 1.
Still, the major decision that whether the south Punjab secretariat will be established in Multan or Bahawalpur is yet to be taken. Another proposal that both divisional headquarters will separately have each of the two posts — the ACS and the AIG — is again yet to be answered.
An official handout, however, said the chief minister told his party MPAs in Bahawalpur on Friday that the secretariat would be set up in Multan and the ACS and AIG would soon be posted in Bahawalpur and Multan, respectively.
While, the South Punjab secretariat will cover three divisions — Multan, Bahawalpur and DG Khan, the government has sought panels of three senior officers each for the selection of ACS South Punjab and AIG South Punjab.
Set to function from July 1
The south Punjab civil secretariat will function under the additional chief secretary and house 18 departments, including planning and development, health, education, irrigation, communication and works, finance, local government, housing, women development, energy and agriculture. Each department will be represented by a special secretary, while having full powers of an administrative secretary. The special secretary of each department will have a team of two additional secretaries, four deputy secretaries and four section officers besides ministerial and support staff.
The political decision to create South Punjab province was first taken by former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif but withdrew this tall claim soon afterwards and proposed a ‘mini civil secretariat’ in south Punjab to counter the narrative of Seraiki Sooba proponents.
The Shahbaz Sharif government could develop several administrative proposals for the mini secretariat and eventually got stuck with the high financial cost of the facility ahead of 2017-18 budget — “the election-year budget”.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) had also made an election slogan of creating South Punjab province. The PTI leaders including foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had wooed the politicians from South Punjab to join the party and propel the movement to create south Punjab province.
As the PTI took reins of the Punjab government in 2018 general elections, it created an Executive Council on Creation of South Punjab province. However, it soon realized that creating a new province required amending the constitution and a consent of the Punjab Assembly with two-thirds majority in the parliament and in the provincial assembly.
Eventually the PTI government too floated the idea of establishing a South Punjab Secretariat and later formed several committees to decide various aspects of the secretariat.
Soon after approving the posts including the ACS and AIG for south Punjab secretariat, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, who is currently on a visit to South Punjab, tweeted: “The PTI’s Punjab government has fulfilled party’s manifesto and promise of creating south Punjab secretariat and created posts of the ACS and the AIG and officers will be posted against these posts soon. The officers will start performing their duties in south Punjab from July 1”.
When contacted, a senior officer told Dawn that no decision had yet been taken whether the south Punjab secretariat would be housed in Multan or Bahwalpur. He also acknowledged that the decision had also not been taken that which divisional headquarters would have one of the two posts.
“Since the chief minister has tweeted that the newly created posts would be filled and become functional from July 1, the south Punjab secretariat will start functioning at its full capacity to serve the people of South Punjab from Dec 1,” the officer told Dawn.
Our Bahawalpur correspondent added that the chief minister also spoke to the PTI lawmakers and leaders at the Circuit House about the headway made in the establishment of South Punjab secretariat, locust swarms attacks and development projects for South Punjab and Bahawalpur on Friday.
MPAs including Samiullah Chaudhry, Makhdoom Iftikhar Gilani, South Punjab spokesman Sumera Malik and PML-Q MPA Ehsanul Haq Chaudhry called on the chief minister here. He informed the MPAs that he had already imposed a ban on transfer of the development funds allocated to South Punjab to any other city.
Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2020