Bureaucrat’s widow awaits vacation of house allotted to her

Sunbal was chief secretary Punjab before his appointment in the federal government as interior secretary

By Umar Cheema
February 29, 2024
Abdullah Sunbal. — The News File

ISLAMABAD: Abdullah Sunbal left this world six months ago while in service and his widow has since been waiting to move into the house allotted to her as it is still under occupation of a highly influential retired bureaucrat. Even the Punjab government has been unable to implement a cabinet order to get that vacated.


Sunbal was chief secretary Punjab before his appointment in the federal government as interior secretary which turned out to be his last posting as he died of cardiac arrest at the age of 53 in September last year. A house in GOR-1 Lahore was allotted to him in July 2022, a couple of months before he was made CS Punjab.

By the time, it was in the possession of Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan. He is simultaneously wearing three caps --- Secretary Special Investment Facilitation Council, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission and Chairman Bank of Punjab. But he has retired from government service meaning thereby he is not entitled to avail himself of the house reserved for the government servants.

Although the house was allotted to Sunbal, he chose to live with his parents and let Jehanzeb retain it as long as he desires. Things however changed after Sunbal’s death. His widow needed a separate residence and there couldn’t be a better option than the house allotted to her late husband. Chief Secretary Punjab also wanted to be helpful.

In November last year, a letter was issued to declare the retention of the house to the widow which was in fact never vacated by Jehanzeb. “The Competent Authority hereby allowed you to retain House No. 16, Golf Road, GOR-1, Lahore till the date of superannuation of your deceased husband up to 29.01.2030, as rent-free accommodation, as per Clause-16. 1 (i) of the Punjab Government Residences Allotment Policy, 2021,” reads the letter.

The widow has since been struggling to resolve the matter. A Harvard’s graduate, Dr Ain-ul-Momina, also tried to contact Jehanzeb in vain. A source close to her said she tried to reach him through call and text message without success. Not only Jehanzeb and Sunbal were having cordial relations, the latter’s widow is no stranger to the former. They have worked together when Jehanzeb was Punjab’s health secretary and she was on a consulting assignment of the World Bank on the subject matter.

Other than her, the Punjab government was also very keen to get the house vacated for the widow. Mohsin Naqvi, former caretaker CM Punjab, struggled his best. He took up the matter with acquaintances and friends of Jehanzeb. When all else failed, the issue was brought to the cabinet in its meeting held on January 24 and an approval was granted to help the widow in getting the house vacated. But this order couldn’t be implemented by the caretaker government.

Jehanzeb while talking to The News said he was unaware of the cabinet decision in this regard. He said he was entitled to that official residence till April 2023 and applied for further extension which has not been granted yet. He said he has never been served a notice to vacate it. Jehanzeb said Sunbal’s wife being a government servant is entitled to a residence as per her pay scale and that doesn’t make her eligible for GOR-1 residence. According to him, she is an assistant professor in King Edward Medical College. A source from the Sunbal family however said she was on a contractual appointment there hence doesn’t fall in the government servant category.