GUJRAT: The Punjab government has not yet issued the budget for the Gujrat commissioner office for the current fiscal year 2023-24, which has put the status of the newly announced division in jeopardy.

The Gujrat division does not have a commissioner and regional police officer (RPO) since the caretaker Punjab government transferred the first-ever commissioner and RPO after suspending the divisional status of Gujrat more than a year ago.

The decision was challenged in the Lahore High Court by the locals and the court restored the status of division for Gujrat in June last year. The provincial government then handed over the additional charge of Gujrat division to the commissioner and RPO Gujranwala who still hold that charge. But at least three additional commissioners of revenue, consolidation and coordination and deputy director food remained posted there since then but the budget for these posts is yet to be released.

The PTI-PML-Q coalition government of chief minister Parvez Elahi had granted the status of division to Gujrat in August 2022. Though the court restored the divisional status of Gujrat but practically the division has been rendered dysfunctional. In another decision by the LHC in 2023, the court had also stopped the Punjab government from doing any construction work at the proposed site of the divisional complex on the land owned by the forest and irrigation departments at Machiana village near Kunjah since a syphon on Upper Jhelum Canal and a forest were located at the proposed site.

A senior official of Gujranwala commissioner office has told Dawn that the formal functioning of Gujrat division may not get underway as far as the incumbent rulers are at the helm of affairs.

He adds that the authorities concerned in the provincial government had repeatedly been requested to release the budget of Gujrat division for running the day-to-day affairs but to no avail so far.

It is learnt that the additional commissioners and deputy director food have been getting the salaries but for running the offices and vehicles, these officers have to rely on the logistic support of Gujrat district administration.

The PML-Q is an ally in Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz-led government in Punjab and the senior PML-Q leadership, including federal minister Chaudhry Salik Hussain and his brother Chaudhry Shafay Hussain, who is the Punjab minister for industries, had hinted at making Gujrat division fully functional on several occasions. However, no progress has been made so far in this regard.

The Parvez government had also created at least two new tehsils of Kunjah and Jalalpur Jattan but practically both the new tehsils have been dysfunctional for more than a year.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2024

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