LAHORE: Finding it hard to come up to the expectations of the PTI-PML-Q coalition government, Punjab Chief Secretary (CS) Kamran Ali Afzal on Saturday requested the federal government to withdraw his services from the province, citing ‘personal reasons’.

In his letter to Secretary Establishment Inamullah Khan, the chief secretary said: “I am writing to convey that owing to personal reasons, it is not possible for me to continue on my current assignment.”

It is reliably learnt that the Shehbaz Sharif-led federal government has instructed the chief secretary to continue working in Punjab and look after law and order during Ashura (first 10 days of Muharram) as his request would be considered soon afterwards.

As per sources in bureaucracy, following Mr Afzal’s transfer, most probably after 10th of Muharram, senior bureaucrats in the race for the top administrative slot may include Babar Hayat Tarar, currently an OSD in federal government, P&D Board chairman Abdullah Sumbal, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Asadullah Khan and Punjab irrigation secretary Shehryar Sultan.

The federal government, the sources claim, won’t be willing to oblige Chief Minister Parvez Elahi by appointing his nominee against the chief secretary’s slot.

Despite being appointed by Imran Khan’s federal government, Mr Afzal as head of Punjab’s civil bureaucracy was retained by the PML-N government and showed a tilt towards it when it had gained support of 25 Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf members and was hoping to form the government in Punjab.

Then Punjab police inspector general Rao Sardar Ali Khan had made a quiet exit as he had himself requested the federal government for his transfer from the province soon after the PTI had won 15 seats in the July by-election. He was transferred on July 22.

In order to facilitate the PML-N leadership, the top civil bureaucrats, including the CS, IGP, ACS (Home), Lahore commissioner and deputy commissioner had got the Punjab Assembly cordoned off on April 16 and even sent the police on the floor of the provincial house, in an unprecedented move. Both PTI and PML-Q had boycotted the voting for the election of the chief minister.

The very next day (on April 17), the Governor House was cordoned off and even then governor Umer Sarfraz Cheema was not allowed to enter the premises, to facilitate the administration of oath to Hamza Shehbaz as chief minister by National Assembly Speaker Raja Parvez Ashraf.

This turned Chief Minister Parvez Elahi against CS Afzal and IGP Rao Sardar to the extent that he wanted both officers to appear in the Punjab Assembly and face the wrath of PTI and PML-Q legislators for their actions. However, the officers, backed by Hamza, refused to obey.

The PTI Chairman Imran Khan was so annoyed with these officers that he openly warned them that their “names had been noted” and they would be taken to task.

Sources says Parvez Elahi, after become CM, had started bypassing the chief secretary as he got appointed Punjab Assembly secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti as principal secretary to chief minister, despite the fact that he did not belong to the civil service.

Similarly, when the chief secretary transferred Layyah DC, against whom PTI chairman Imran Khan had spoken in the public meetings, and posted a deputy secretary and his staff officer Wasim Hamed there, the chief minister got the orders cancelled and got Muhammad Yasir posted as deputy commissioner. Mr Yasir was serving as director-general of Sargodha PHA.

Mr Afzal, being chief secretary was also conspicuous by his absence from the oath-taking ceremony of Punjab’s new 21-members cabinet held at the Governor House, Lahore, where he was supposed to read the notification and request the governor to administer the oath.

As per sources, because of absence of Mr Afzal, the government asked ACS Syed Ali Murtaza to conduct the ceremony, but he too excused himself. Eventually, Implementation and Coordination (I&C) Secretary Zaid Bin Maqsood conducted the oath-taking ceremony.

Later, the Punjab government made ACS Murtaza an OSD. He was transferred and directed to report to the S&GAD department for further orders. Mr Murtaza was ACS (Home) when PTI’s leaders and workers were stopped from marching on Islamabad by firing teargas shells, rubber bullets and baton charge.

Mr Murtaza did not respond to the messages seeking the reasons for his ouster from the ACS office.

ACS (Home) Asadullah Khan has been given the additional charge of the chief secretary till further orders.

The Punjab government also transferred youth affairs and sports department secretary Asadullah Faiz and posted him as mines and minerals secretary against a vacant post.

Punjab local government and community development (LG&CD) secretary Imran Sikandar has been transferred and posted as youth affairs and sports secretary.

Member (Judicial-I) Board of Revenue Syed Mubasher Hussain (ex-PCS cadre BS-20) has been transferred and posted as LG&CD secretary.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2022

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