ISLAMABAD: The Prime Minister’s office under newly appointed caretaker premier Justice (R) Nasirul Mulk Friday changed his principal secretary but only after consulting with Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which has been made more powerful than the caretaker government under Elections Act 2017.
Sources said that before the replacement of Fawad Hasan Fawad by Suhail Amir as principal secretary to the prime minister, the caretaker PM’s office took the ECP into confidence.
In view of the powers conferred on the ECP, the caretaker prime minister as well as the caretaker chief ministers are bound under the law to make changes in bureaucracy only after consultation with the ECP.
There are two different provisions in the law - The Elections Act 2017 - which unlike the past does not give the caretaker governments powers to make changes in the bureaucracy of their own choice and free will.
Section 5(4) of the Act says, “After the Election programme has been issued and till the publication of the names of the returned candidates in the official gazette, any government or authority shall not post or transfer any official appointed or deputed in connection with an election without prior approval in writing of the commission, including posting or transfer the decision in respect whereof has not been implemented, and the commission may itself issue necessary directions to any such government or authority for the posting or transfer of any official.”
Although the Section 5(4) talks about the transfer of officials “in connection with an election” but Section 230(2)(f) leaves no room for the federal or provincial caretaker governments to transfer any official on their own and without consulting the ECP.
The Section 230(2)(f) of the Elections Act 2017 deals with the function of the caretaker government. The said section reads as: “230: Functions of caretaker Government- (2) The caretaker Government shall not— (f) transfer public officials unless it is considered expedient and after approval of the Commission.”
Informed sources said that in the coming a few days a meeting between the caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk and Chief Election Commissioner is expected to discuss how to bring politically neutral administrations at the federal level and in the provinces to ensure free, fair and independent elections.
All the chief secretaries and inspector generals are expected to be changed and it will happen as soon as all the provincial governments have their caretaker chief ministers in place.
The ECP sources said that administrative changes are critically important for free, fair and transparent elections and thus it will be ensured that politically neutral administrations are put in place for the satisfaction of all the political parties.
Regarding the top level bureaucratic changes at the federal level, a source claimed that the caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk had offered Fawad Hassan Fawad to continue as his principal secretary but the latter requested to be posted out. Fawad has been posted as head of Civil Services Academy while appointing Suhail Amir as secretary to the caretaker prime minister.
Suhail Amir has been one of the top three bureaucratic aids of the outgoing prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Being Secretary Cabinet, Suhail was directly reporting to the prime minister. Three federal secretaries - Secretary to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Secretary and Establishment Secretary - directly report to the prime minister and are considered his key bureaucratic team.
Suhail Amir enjoys good reputation. Before his previous posting as cabinet secretary, he served in different federal divisions as secretary besides officiating as additional chief secretary, Punjab.