ISLAMABAD: In the first phase of a top-level reshuffle of the federal bureaucracy, Prime Minister Imran Khan selected mostly competent and honest officers, but ignored his pledge to post the right person in the right job, senior civil servants told The News.
Encouragingly for civil servants considered close to former rulers, the prime minister has prioritized their integrity and performance over past associations with his political opponents, they said. Ejaz Muneer, the newly-appointed Secretary Establishment, and Asad Hayauddin, posted as Secretary Petroleum, closely served the Sharifs. Nonetheless, Khan opted to appoint them to key bureaucratic posts on the basis of their professional repute and competence. However, other officers like Tariq Mahmood Pasha and Sikandar Sultan, despite their varied experience and good reputations, have been posted to relatively unimportant or dying ministries. Many officers in the civil service believe that in making these appointments, the Khan government ignored the principle of posting the right person in the right job.
The new Secretary Establishment, Ejaz Muneer, belongs to the Pakistan Administrative Service. He topped his batch in the CSS examination. Subsequently, he served as Secretary Services Punjab for some time in the Shahbaz Sharif administration, which makes him appropriate for the Establishment Division. Muneer also served as Secretary Health and Secretary Higher Education in Shahbaz Sharif’s team. He expedited the free laptop scheme in Punjab, besides having served as District Coordination Officer Gujranwala and Director General of the Lahore Development Authority under Sharif. At the federal level, Muneer has served as Additional Secretary in the Nawaz Sharif administration. The former premier initially posted him as Chief Secretary Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Later, Muneer was promoted and appointed secretary aviation. Although Muneer has never served in the Establishment Division, he is considered firm and professional. However, his success in the role of Secretary Establishment would entirely depend upon the prime minister and his principal secretary.
The civil servants believe Muneer would be able to deliver if the Establishment Division is empowered and allowed to work independently as the top state entity for human resources management in the bureaucracy. But if the division is relegated to the status of a post office for external decision makers, including the PM Office, as has been the practice for the last few decades, the new Secretary Establishment would be rendered ineffective. The Establishment Division’s primary role as career planner and personnel manager of the civil service was undermined by the politicization of the bureaucracy. During successive governments, the PM Office ensured the posting of politically favoured officers to the division, which encouraged others - including politicians - to influence it to provide prized positions to their blue-eyed candidates.
Once upon a time, the Secretary Establishment used to be very powerful and could not be influenced on transfer and posting matters, even by ministers and fellow secretaries. But for many years, the Secretary Establishment was relegated to serving as the second-in-command of the principal secretary to the prime minister, instead of directly interacting with the chief executive. According to a senior bureaucrat, if Prime Minister Khan intends to depoliticize the bureaucracy, he would not only have to empower the Establishment Division; he would also have to ensure that his principal secretary does not act as the "Secretary Secretaries".
For Asad Hayaud Din, the post of Secretary Petroleum would be an entirely new experience. He has mostly served in the Ministry of Commerce and on related positions. Like Muneer, Asad topped his CSS batch too. Despite serving in grade 21, he was initially posted as additional secretary in-charge of the Establishment Division by the Nawaz Sharif government. Later, he was moved to the Industries Division as its head. He has also worked Pakistan’s Information Counselor in Washington and Commercial Counselor in Chicago.
Tariq Pasha is the new Secretary Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Division. He is a member of the income tax service and served as Secretary Finance and Secretary Auqaf under Shahbaz Sharif's government in Punjab. He also served as Secretary to Governor Punjab with Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar during the PML-N administration. He was a close aide to Ishaq Dar in the Ministry of Finance before being appointed Chairman Federal Board of Revenue. His last posting was as Secretary Statistics. Although his career was focused on financial and economic affairs, he has now been moved to a not-too-important administrative ministry. The PTI government has posted Ayub Sheikh as Secretary Statistics, despite having no relevant experience.
Sultan Sikandar has been moved out of the petroleum ministry and sent to the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, widely considered a "dying" entity after the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; it has no role beyond dealing with the Afghan refugees. He is the son-in-law of erstwhile top bureaucrat Saeed Mehdi. Before his appointment as Secretary Petroleum, Sultan served both as Chief Secretary AJK and Chief Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan during Sharif’s tenure.
Saqib Aziz, who has now been given charge of the Aviation Division, previously served as Commissioner Dera Ghazi Khan and then as Senior Member Punjab Board of Revenue under Shahbaz Sharif. Upon being called to Islamabad, he was initially posted as Secretary Postal Service by Nawaz Sharif and then moved to the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD). Aurangzeb Haque, who was shifted from the Establishment Division to CADD - which is to be abolished by the Khan government - also served the Sharif administration as the Chief Secretary Balochistan. Many in the bureaucracy appreciate Imran Khan’s decision to acknowledge the competence and honesty of senior officers, irrespective of whom they served in the past. However, these civil servants expect that future postings according to their experience and qualifications to ensure greater efficiency and performance.