LAHORE: Chief Minister Parvez Elahi on Monday made changes in four ministers’ and an adviser’s portfolios to create room for more ministers. Initially an MPA and a special assistant have been assigned portfolios.

A significant change is in the portfolio of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) which has been given to former premier Imran Khan’s focal person on digital media Dr Arslan Khalid.

After the fall of PTI government in April this year, Dr Khalid allegedly ran a social media campaign against the establishment. Law enforcement agencies had raided his house in Wapda Town and reportedly took away some laptops and cell phones.

Mr Elahi has withdrawn primary and secondary healthcare department portfolio from Dr Yasmin Rashid and allowed her to continue holding the specialised healthcare and medical education department.

PTI’s social media guru gets PITB’s charge

Dr Rashid is also holding an important portfolio of PTI central Punjab president and had been predominantly involved in July 17 by-election. Currently, she is also busy in preparing for the National Assembly seat by-election in Nankana, where party chairman Imran Khan himself is contesting.

The primary and secondary healthcare department has been given to MPA from Multan Dr Akhtar Malik. Dr Malik was in former governor Chaudhry Sarwar’s group and had continued struggling for the health department during the Buzdar government’s three-and-a-half-year term.

Former law minister Basharat Raja was given cooperative and public prosecution departments as minister. Mr Raja, who was originally PML-Q senior member and was asked by Mr Elahi to join PTI and contest general election 2018, has been given additional portfolios of parliamentary affairs and environment protection. The public prosecution portfolio has, however, been withdrawn.

Minister Khurram Shehzad, who was earlier given law and parliamentary affairs portfolios, has been stripped of parliamentary affairs job.

Minister Raja Yasir Humayun, who served as higher education and PITB minister in the Buzdar dispensation and was given same portfolios in the Parvez Elahi cabinet – has been stripped of PITB portfolio.

The PITB portfolio has now been given to Special Assistant to Chief Minister Dr Arslan Khalid. It merits mentioning that Dr Khalid had recently made headlines after recording of his purported telephonic conversation with Bushra Bibi was leaked on social media. In the alleged conversation, the wife of former PM Imran Khan can be heard giving instructions to Khalid on running trends on social media against opponents of her husband.

Adviser retired Brig Muhammad Musadiq Abbasi, who was given anti-corruption establishment portfolio at the time of formation of Elahi cabinet, has also been given public prosecution department under his control.

The CM office has sent chief minister’s order to the chief secretary for issuance of formal notification.

CHIEF SECRETARY: Meanwhile, it is learnt, Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal and Chief Minister Parvez Elahi’s relations have apparently returned to normalcy and the federal government too has allowed him to continue working as chief secretary.

Mr Kamran Afzal had written a letter to the federal government on Aug 6 for withdrawal of his services from Punjab explaining that it was no more possible for him to continue on his present assignment.

The chief minister was initially annoyed with the chief secretary for his alleged involvement in sending police on the floor to protect Hamza Shehbaz while he was getting elected as chief minister on April 16 – with the support of PTI’s 25 turncoats.

Later, the civil administration under Afzal’s watch had besieged the Governor House and did not allow Governor Omer Sarfraz Cheema to enter the premises to ensure that Hamza Shehbaz take oath from National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.

Mr Elahi after assuming the office of the chief minister had accepted Afzal as chief secretary but did not listen to him while taking administrative action including the posting of Punjab Assembly secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti as principal secretary to chief minister.

Initially, the federal government had instructed the chief secretary to continue working in Punjab and look after law and order during Ashura and his request would be considered soon afterwards.

The chief secretary had stopped going to his office after Ashura and eventually was seen sitting with the chief minister at Pakistan’s 75th Independence Day event at Hazuri Bagh on Sunday. It was a pleasant surprise for the civil bureaucracy when chief secretary Afzal attended his office after several days.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2022

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