ISLAMABAD: Once an ordinary mid-career civil servant in the Sindh province- Owais Muzzaffar, aka Tappi, is the de facto chief minister of the province today.
Known as Mr Tappi, the name that may sound strange to ordinary souls but not to those occupying key positions in the Sindh regime or are knowledgeable in the business circles in Karachi, Islamabad and Dubai, the most powerful man in Sindh today is running the show from the Bilawal House, Karachi.
Both the advisor to the Chief Minister Sindh Sharmila Farooqi and Spokesman for the Bilawal House Ejaz Durrani denied this factor. Mr Tappi was not available for his comments. However Tappi’s personal secretary Mr Junaid, who sits in the Bilawal House, when approached said that his boss was presently outside Pakistan. Junaid, too, denied that Mr Tappi was calling the shots in Sindh today.
Credible sources in the provincial government, however, confirm that the era of Zulfikar Mirza is over as Tappi is the man, who dictates what to do to all concerned in the provincial set-up. Tappi is the adopted son of Hakim Ali Zardari and a step-brother of President Zardari.
“A ruler is not bound by any law, as his word is, law is for the minions of the state and no one dare point out any law or rule limiting the authority of the ruler,” this is how a well-informed official source explained the rule of Tappi.
The source said that there was no such thing as a constitutionally empowered Chief Minister in Sindh since past two and a half years. “These days the ruler of Sindh is Mr Tappi,” said the source but Sharmila Farooqi’s reaction was, “Of course not”. Surprisingly Ms Farooqi even claimed that she did not know Mr Tappi and suggested to this correspondent to talk to Mr Tappi to ascertain his role.
Sources confirm while the very presence of his PS Junaid in the Bilawal House endorses that Tappi holds his court in Bilawal House where, the sources confide, even the acting chief secretary Sindh stands in respect until asked to take a seat; where all members of the cabinet and provincial bureaucracy are supposed to be on call and take all instructions from Mr Tappi as commands of the Presidency. The chief minister has no role but to sign on papers and files sent to him as dictated by Mr Tappi. These sources say that Tappi decides on all lucrative matters in the provincial government ranging from allotment of lands, reconstruction funds, sugar pricing and such other things. He is the ruler of Sindh and no one dare question his authority.
The Presidency Spokesman Farhatullah Babar has been inaccessible and perhaps shied of even responding to a question sent to him through a mobile phone message. The Bilawal House Spokesman Ejaz Durrani politely said that the reports about Mr Tappi were part of the propaganda campaign launched against the president and the co-chairperson of the PPP.
When asked if Mr Tappi held a seat in the Bilawal House, he did not deny it and said the Bilawal House was open for all the party workers. He though confirmed that Tappi was like a member of the family to the president, who, he added, treated all the party workers as the members of his family.
Despite these denials, the sources in the provincial capital revealed that Mr Tappi had become so powerful that he recently made a horrible example of Dr Fazlullah Pechuho, former finance secretary of Sindh who delayed a few land allotment files of Mr Tappi.
He was removed instantly and had been left without posting since past two months. Mr Pechuho’s punishment is horrifying for the bureaucracy as he is no ordinary mortal. He is brother-in-law of the president being husband of MNA Dr Azra Pechuho.
“The message was sent much earlier as well when Dr Zulfiqar Mirza was removed from the mantle of being the de facto Minister for Land Utilisation (the CM being the Minister In charge officially) and Tappi was given this assignment and he brought his own set of officers in land department,” the source disclosed.
Tappi, it is said, was not taken very seriously initially as he did not have the aura of Home Ministry which Dr Mirza had but the removal of Pechuho from the prized posting of Finance Secretary sent the message loud and clear: Tappi is the ruler of Sindh appointed by the Saeen.
These sources said that the matter was further facilitated by giving additional charge of the post of chief secretary to the Senior Member BOR who has been holding such positions since past two months. The poor chap is acting like a personal servant to Tappi in the hope of getting a permanent posting as CS.
Though Sharmila claims that she is not familiar with Tappi, the sources say that the association between the president and the de fecto CM Sindh goes back to decades. In the days when president’s father was running Bambino Cinema in Karachi and the family lived in the upper storey of the cinema building, one Muzaffar worked as manager of the cinema as well as the caretaker of the house, a source said, adding that one of his sons Owais frequented the house and was taken as a member of the family. In 1995, he was appointed as an Assistant Commissioner (now called DDO (Revenue)) in PCS by then chief minister without any exam by the Sindh Public Service Commission. Tappi went into exile in Musharraf regime and stayed with Benazir in Dubai becoming a caretaker for the Bilawal House in Dubai. He absconded from the service throughout and returned after the death of Benazir Bhutto. The absconding DDO was allowed to resign respectably without any action.
The ex-DDO, the sources said, remained at low profile initially where he would pursue his matters through Dr Mirza and the chief minister. He also took help from Faryal Talpur, powerful sister of the president. In the process of over two years, he reportedly proved to the top man in Islamabad that there was no one else but Tappi, who could serve him well.
These sources said that he wanted a grip over all the provincial matters. He could not exercise his full authority in the presence of Fazal Pechuho, who had a say in provincial matters due to his relation with the president. His removal finally got Tappi the mantle he was aiming to get all these years. “The chief minister gets orders from him and the Acting Chief Secretary Ghulam Ali Shah Pasha acts most obediently before a former DDO,” confirmed a provincial secretary.
Tappi’s pomp and protocol matches his position. His motorcade, it is said, contains several police and rangers vehicles accompanying him all the time. All land matters at the provincial or even at the district level are to be cleared by him first. “He chairs all the meetings in the ante room of Bilawal House and passes orders to the ministers and officials, even when the president is holding another meeting in the next room during his visit to Karachi,” a source said.