Punjab govt ‘fails’ to restore bureaucracy’s confidence

Updated 01 Oct 2020

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In this file photo, police officers are deployed at the Lahore airport. — AP
In this file photo, police officers are deployed at the Lahore airport. — AP

LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Punjab government is still grappling with governance issues as it has so far been unable to inject confidence into the bureaucracy to take bold decisions and post bureaucrats on merit to efficiently run the affairs of the province.

The government is also facing criticism for posting low-grade officers against higher grade posts – a model introduced by former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif.

The bureaucracy’s confidence was shattered after the arrests of some high-profile bureaucrats by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) over corruption allegations after the PTI government took over. Even several “damage-control meetings” chaired by none other than the prime minister himself could not restore the officers’ confidence so that they could go for spending public money on various projects without fear of consequences.

“Yes. The bureaucrats don’t feel comfortable while taking big financial decisions, as this government can’t even differentiate between inability or mistake and corruption,” a senior bureaucrat confided to Dawn.

Set-up replete with merit, seniority violations

Another said that most of the officers were keeping a low profile and just following direct instructions from the chief minister’s secretariat, or getting their projects and proposals approved from the Punjab cabinet as a safeguard.

“Without robust public spending, the economy of the country cannot be put on the road to progress,” the officer said.

A senior bureaucrat also claimed that the Buzdar administration had now even silenced Chief Secretary Jawwad Rafique Malik and he could be seen co-chairing meetings with respective departments’ ministers.

“Only the vision of the federal government and chief minister’s secretariat is being transformed into reality. The bureaucrats, who are supposed to take informed decisions, have been restricted to follow and implement the political leadership’s vision,” he said.

Though most of the transfers and postings in civil bureaucracy and police are being decided by the prime minister, recent reshuffle in the bureaucracy had raised many eyebrows.

The most important among them is the replacement of the Punjab local government and community development (LG&CD) department’s secretary Dr Ahmad Javed Qazi with Additional Chief Secretary (Urbanisation and Infrastructure Development) Tahir Khurshid, known as ‘TK’ among bureaucratic circles.

Mr Khurshid, a BS-21 officer, has also been allowed to hold the additional charge of the post of chairman of Chief Minister’s Inspection Team (CMIT). Being CMIT chairman, he is supposed to hold inquiries into complicated issues on the instructions of the chief minister.

According to sources, Mr Khurshid, who was sidelined by former chief secretary retired Maj Azam Suleman, is enjoying great influence and support in the Buzdar administration. Mr Khurshid had been posted against the lower-grade post after upgrading it to BS-21, at a time when the LG&CD department was readying to hold the all-important local government polls in the province.

Mr Khurshid, who had turned approver for NAB in the Ashiana Housing case against former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, has been serving as commissioner of DG Khan division, the home district of the chief minister, and communication and works (C&W) department secretary.

A senior bureaucrat told Dawn that an influential group of bureaucrats had emerged, known as ‘TK group’, with Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Iftikhar Ali Sahoo and Multan Division Commissioner Javed Akhtar Mahmood as its prominent members.

DCs & DPOs: Following in the footsteps of former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, the Buzdar government is also running the province’s administrative affairs through junior officers posted against higher-grade posts.

As many as 19 deputy commissioners (DCs) posted in different districts, including three divisional headquarters, are BS-18 officers serving against BS-19 and BS-20 posts, respectively.

While the DC’s post at the divisional headquarters is of BS-20, no BS-20 officer is currently serving against the slot. Six DCs at as many divisional headquarters are BS-19 officers, while Only 11 districts have BS-19 DCs against the same grade posts.

An officer said the governance issues begin surfacing when these DCs head meetings attended by BS-19 and BS-20 officers of education, health and other departments devolved at the districts level. “The CEOs of health and education departments, as well as several medical superintendents, professors and teachers are serving in BS-20, but are answerable to BS-18 or BS-19 officers posted as DCs,” he added.

Similarly, in violation of the Police Order 2002, some 20 BS-18 officers have been posted as district police officer (DPO), which is a BS-19 post.

A source told Dawn that some 90 police officers serving in BS-19 are awaiting posting in the province as per their grades.

SOUTH PUNJAB SECRETARIAT: The Punjab government had created the south Punjab secretariat with 15 departments but posted 10 secretaries, including additional charge given to the secretary law and ACS (Home), for respective departments on Aug 31.

Despite passage of one month, the government could post just one more secretary for the south, while four posts are lying vacant there.

Among the secretaries posted so far, seven BS-19 officers have been posted against BS-20 posts and that too on double salary.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2020