BAHAWALPUR: The abolition of the South Punjab Secretariat (in Bahawalpur and Multan) seems to be on the cards as the Punjab government is moving ahead rapidly to close down all established departments from the Bahawalpur secretariat after it wrapped up two in Multan.

Out of the seven departments in Bahawalpur, finance, services and general administration and planning and development had already been shifted to Lahore. From the six set up in Multan, law and home had been shifted to the provincial capital.

A source closely involved with the affairs of the Bahawalpur secretariat told Dawn that originally eight departments each were to be housed here and Multan. However, seven had been established in Bahawalpur and six in Multan. Now, Bahawalpur was left with irrigation, local government, communication and works and law departments, while Multan had education, health, agriculture and higher education that are likely to be moved to Lahore soon.

When the Punjab government had some time back decided to shift the South Punjab Secretariat to Lahore, the then additional chief secretary (ACS) Zahid Akhtar Zaman had opposed it and opted to be transferred himself. He was now posted as the cabinet additional secretary in the federal government.

The government neither appointed his replacement nor issued a clarification for his removal due to which the post was lying vacant since Feb 21. However, Dawn learnt that a summary in this regard was ready to be submitted to the Punjab cabinet for approval.

Moreover, the fate of the Punjab government’s huge allocation of over Rs6 billion was yet to be determined that was meant for the establishment of the two secretariats for which initial work had been undertaken by the respective departments.

Similarly, the government’s repeated claims that one-third of the provincial Annual Development Programme for the year 2021-22 would be allocated to uplift programmes in south Punjab and the amount not be utilised for any other purpose during the next financial year remain unfulfilled.

Despite the passage of around a year, the South Punjab Secretariat could not be made functional as a result of which all the official work had to be sanctioned from Lahore. The main reason being cited was that the record of almost all the departments could not be shifted to the two cities, as had been announced last year by Mr Zaman.

Millions of rupees had been utilised last year on the renovation of government buildings for their conversion into the South Punjab Secretariat in both cities.

DEATH IN JAIL: An under-trial prisoner mysteriously died in the central jail on Saturday.

Lodhran-based Aun Muhammad was lodged in the jail in several cases of theft filed in many police stations.

Jail officials claimed that Muhammad suffered a heart attack and was rushed to local hospital, but died on the way. Further details were being awaited.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2021

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