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June 20, 2018

Bureaucratic reshuffle: Hemming, hawing by ECP, caretakers irk opposition parties


June 20, 2018

ISLAMABAD: While the caretaker government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) are still dithering about when to reshuffle the top bureaucracy at the federal and provincial level ahead of the general elections, a wave of uneasiness is beginning to engulf the political parties, mainly the opposition parties, desperately wanting a bureaucratic reshuffle at the top level to pave way for a fair and impartial election on 25th July 2018.

What gives the political parties jitters is the long and lengthy delay being exhibited by the caretaker government and the Election Commission to fulfill one of the major conditions for ensuring a free and fair election by removing and replacing men holding key positions since the outgoing regimes at both provincial and federal level.

Voicing strong opinions and ire at what they see as a “needless hemming and hawing by the federal government and the Election Commission in appointing neutral and bipartisan bureaucracy at the top level to oversee the upcoming elections, leaders of various political parties have demanded the needless is done without any further delay by the Caretaker government and the Election Commission which has already wasted two precious weeks without putting anything tangible on the place to fulfill their mandate of ensuring a free and fair elections.

Ironically, a growing degree of anger and frustration seems to be piling up even further among the political parties as they are yet to see any serious move or intention, other than “hollow promises”, from the caretaker PM and the CMs for over two weeks now of putting in place apolitical and neutral administrations at all levels, a prerequisite for a coercion-free and enabling environment ahead of the elections. As of now, not a single district and divisional head at provincial level and administrative secretary at federal level appointed by previous political government has been removed.

Though the federal government removed provincial chief secretaries and IGs police, it was done after immense pressure from ECP, The News learnt reliably. This is not enough for fair elections, said a number of candidates talking to The News when contacted.

The News further learnt that the provincial governments are planning reshuffle at a snail’s pace which will be sent to the ECP for approval then, if approved by ECP, would be notified. Which, means another week’s time.

Former Leader of Opposition in NA and PPP senior leader Syed Khursheed Shah talking to The News said, free and fair election are must for the state and democracy, adding that if government don’t appoint impartial secretaries-which was finalized-would tantamount to “Might is Right Rule” which would be disastrous. If free and fair elections are not ensured it will be very dangerous for the state and system, Shah added.

“We have issued verbal statements repeatedly and also wrote letters to the government to ensure apolitical and impartial administration at district, divisional, and federal level, but the government did not pay attention to our requests and written letters.”

“We have strong reservations about the role of administration appointed by political government at district, division and federal level, especially Punjab. This is an open secret that the previous governments in federal and provincial level made appointments of administrative officers on political basis. Now these officers are holding key posts and will help their previous bosses,” said the PPP leader.

Similar views were expressed by PTI leader Shafqat Mahmoud on caretaker government’s indecisiveness to appoint non-political administration at all levels, soon after caretaker government took over.

He said prime responsibility of the caretaker was to ensure free and fair election on 25th July and fir this purpose all steps should be taken whether there is bureaucratic reshuffle or something is else. Free and fair election should be visible he stated. Out of these 60 days 1/3rd of the time lapsed and political bureaucracy is still holding reins of government”, said Fawad Chaudhry.

He has also written letters to transfer a few top officials, including secretary interior and chairman Nadra. Though the Election Commission claims, and per rules, their claim is correct that they have to ensure free and fair elections under the supervision of independent bureaucracy, but till today appointment of nonpolitical bureaucrats on key slots at federal level has not been ensured. When contacted Federal Minister Information and Broadcasting Barrister Ali Zafar said presently consultation for transfer of bureaucracy at the federal level is going with the Election Commission.

He further said prime responsibility of the caretaker government is to ensure free and fair elections and government would not go for blame game and any officer who is considered a political would be transferred.

When questioned about financial sector bureaucracy’s transfer when financial year is closing, he said our duty is to ensure fair election. In case there is some issue caretaker Finance Minister Shahshad Akhtar is enough capable to handle issue relating to these ministries, he concluded.