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National

September 2, 2018

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Patwaris are more powerful than DCs, even in Naya Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Earlier this week, a female assistant commissioner in Rahim Yar Khan transferred over three dozen patwaris - the lowest official of the bureaucracy’s highly influential revenue department- in consultation with her deputy commissioner, without realising the repercussions she would face.

The transfer order was issued on August 27. The very next day, assistant commissioner (AC) Hira Rizwan started facing pressure, both from outsiders and senior bureaucrats. Not only did her supervising district commissioner (DC) allegedly ask her to undo the transfer orders of two patwaris; one of the transferred patwaris visited her to taunt her with the news that he would soon be reinstated and so would not take up his new assignment.

The audacious patwari was proven right. The very next day, the DC cancelled the AC’s orders and rescinded the transfers of the patwari. On August 29, he directed all ACs working under him not to order any transfers and postings in their sub-Divisions without the prior approval of his office.

Subsequently, AC Hira Rizwan submitted an application for 10 days' casual leave, citing the directive of the DC to vacate her official accommodation at a government rest house on the same day. With the AC House under repair and unavailable, she needed the time to arrange alternative accommodation. Instead, her application was rejected.

On August 30, the AC wrote a detailed explanation - addressed to her DC and copied to other senior officials - of how her life had become difficult since she transferred the patwaris.

Approached by The News, the DC acknowledged some facts about the incident, but denied others. He told this correspondent that the transfer orders were cancelled because they were issued in violation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). He said that the AC had perhaps misunderstood his directives and issued the transfer orders of selected patwaris without any intimation to his office.

The DC denied that he verbally sought the cancellation of any particular transfer order, but accepted that the AC’s orders were cancelled because she had not informed him of the reshuffle of all patwaris under his charge, while her orders constituted a violation of the SOPs. The DC revealed that he had later he had transferred all the patwaris in his jurisdiction, thereby nullifying the question of any political pressure or favouritism.

Asked if he could cancel the AC’s transfer order, he said he is empowered by the law to do so. However, an hour later on Friday evening, he told The News that the transfer orders of AC Hira Rizwan had been reinstated upon the advice of the provincial Board of Revenue, while the DC's orders were cancelled..

According to an official source, the DC was also under pressure from different quarters. However, he did not say so when speaking to this correspondent. The source said that the DC may have acted unlawfully but he too was a victim of the politicisation of the bureaucracy, wherein external pressures matter and patwaris thereby become more powerful than their supervising DCs.

In her written explanation, assistant commissioner Hira Rizwan reminded her boss that she had discussed the poor performance of the patwaris with him at a meeting on August 27 and suggested that they been moved from posting they had occupied for as long as six years; some had been repeatedly re-posted to the same circle after brief intervals.

Her explanation, a copy of which is available with The News, shows that the DC had agreed to her suggestion, following which the transfer orders were issued the same day. “Next morning, I started getting calls from different quarters demanding reversal of some patwaris to which I politely replied that since the orders are done to improve public service delivery and to make administrative machinery more efficient so no reversals can be made right now,” she wrote.

Her note added: “One Patwari even came to the office of the undersigned and threatened that he will be transferred back soon and will now join new assignment to which I replied that writ of the state shall prevail and asked him to join his new assignment immediately.”

The note revealed she had received a phone call from the DC on on the evening of August 28, asking her to immediately reverse the transfer of two patwaris. She politely declined, angering the DC, who allegedly pressured her to comply. Upon her further refusal, Hira Rizwan claimed she was told to vacate her room at the rest house by the evening. She then wrote the leave application, which was rejected. According to the DC, however, the application was turned because the AC had only recently returned from leave taken on account of Eidul Azha.

In her explanation, Hira Rizwan she later received a call from the addition deputy commissioner (rural) to tell her to immediately vacate the room. She was informed her movements were being monitored.

She noted that designated assistant commissioners of a sub-division are fully empowered to expedite the transfers, postings and dismissals of patwaris without prior approval from their superiors.

As officer of the civil service and a woman, Hira Rizwan said she did not deserve to be ordered to vacate the rest house room when she had no other accommodation. “This has caused immense mental and psychological torture and demoralization,” she said ,in her note.

Her four-page explanation, also forwarded to the Additional Chief Secretary Punjab, Senior Member Board of Revenue, Commissioner Bahawalpur and others, concluded with a request for her transfer.

Since the integrity and authority of the officer of the assistant commissioner had been compromised and her working conditions made so difficult, she requested orders to report back to the Services and General Administration Department.

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