PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is considering a proposal to hire 30 public relations officers (PROs) for cabinet members on contractual basis to offset the impact of prolonged protest by information officers.

Hundred of employees working in 32 attached departments of the government, including information officers, have been boycotting their duties to demand pay parity since July 14.

On July 13, the police broke up a rally of these employees near the provincial assembly building here by using tear gas and water cannon as they tried to march on the civil secretariat. They briefly detained several protesters.

A summary moved by the information department to the chief minister for approval said under the KP Government Rules of Business, 1985, publicity and public relations was the mandate of the department.

“Currently, due to inadequate number of information officers are attached with cabinet member due to which media projection of officials’ engagements and functions of ministers, special assistants and advisors is suffering.

Proposal comes over prolonged protest by information officers

“Chief Minister Mahmood Khan also felt this issue and directed the information department to resolve the issue immediately,” it said.

In the summary, the information department proposed the hiring of 30 PROs for the cabinet members for a period of one year. They will be paid over Rs50,000 ‘retainership fee’ and will be responsible for ensuring media projection of ministers, departments and other government functionaries by issuing handouts, press releases and photographs.

The appointments are likely to cost Rs18 million a year.

The summary said the PROs currently working with the cabinet members would be directed to report to the information department, while the PROs in excess would be surrendered to the surplus pool.

Meanwhile, the information department has issued charge sheet to its four officers for stopping an official from performing his duties during the ongoing protest by the Attached Departments Officers Association (ADOA).

On Sept 6, the department issued a notification appointing deputy secretary of the Auqaf department Mohammad Ilyas as the inquiry officer under the KP Government Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 2011, for looking into the charge against four assistant directors of the department, including Raiz Ghaffur, Attaullah, Mohammad Nisar and Habibullah.

In the charge sheet, the officers were accused of stopping another employee of the same department from performing official duties.

The charge sheet said those officers stopped photographer Rizwanullah from performing duties assigned to him by the chief secretary regarding the coverage of a meeting held in the home and tribal affairs department about security arrangements for Muharram.

It added that by stopping an employee from performing his duties, those officers had appear to be guilty of misconduct under Rule 3 of the KP Government Servant (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 2011, and rendered themselves liable to all or any of the penalties specified in Rule 4 of the same rules.

Meanwhile, the ADOA asked the provincial government and bureaucracy not to act against employees for taking part in the struggle for due rights.

In a statement issued here, the association condemned the transfer of an industries department officer from Peshawar to Bannu and the issuance of charge sheet to four officers of the information department.

Spokesman for the government Kamran Khan Bangash was not available for comments.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2021

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