LAHORE: The Punjab government on Tuesday formally appointed the additional chief secretary (ACS) and additional inspector general (AIG) for the proposed south Punjab secretariat, taking the first concrete step towards the realisation of, what many call, south Punjab province.

Zahid Akhtar Zaman, a Grade 21 officer working as the irrigation secretary, has been appointed as the ACS and Inam Ghani, a Grade 21 police officer, as the AIG.

The secretariat, which would cover the divisions of Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan, is supposed to start working from today (Wednesday). However, it has still not been decided where it would be located: Multan or Bahawalpur. That is why both these civil servants are supposed to split between both cities.

“The ACS will be posted in Bahawalpur and AIG in Multan,” says a source privy to the decision.

According to the scheme of things finalised for the secretariat, it would function under the ACS and have 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 headed by a special secretary – enjoying powers of an administrative secretary – and head a team of two additional secretaries, four deputy secretaries and four section officers besides ministerial and support staff. For running of the secretariat, the Buzdar government has already approved around 385 posts and set aside Rs1.5 billion as budget.

Meanwhile, addressing the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar called both appointments as “fulfilment of another promise by the PTI government”.

The government has also allocated Rs1.5bn for the running of the south Punjab secretariat, he said, and announced: “All officers will be posted on merit so that the southern part of the province, which has been given 33 per cent of development funds, can catch up with the rest of the province quickly.”

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2020