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September 5, 2018

Punjab bureaucracy appears in revolt

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September 5, 2018

ISLAMABAD: As another incident of political interference surfaced in Rajanpur on Tuesday, a number of civil servants told The News on Tuesday that the emerging revolt in the bureaucracy is an expression of the confidence that Prime Minister Imran Khan would keep his promise of not allowing meddling in the government affairs.

Although, no action was taken against the interfering politicians, a number of civil servants said they believed Imran would protect the honest civil servants against such illegal interventions. The latest incident was reported by the Deputy Commissioner (DC) Rajanpur, Allah Ditta Warraich. He lodged a written complaint against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Sardar Nasrullah Khan Dreshak, claiming he publicly humiliated Warraich for not agreeing to his recommendations for the postings of revenue department officials. In a letter, which went viral on the social media, Warraich alleged that Dreshak and his son, Punjab cabinet minister without portfolio Sardar Husnain Bahadar, had pressured him over the transfer and posting of various Patwaris and officials of the Punjab Border Military Police. Warraich asked for the case to be rendered to the competent authority to bring charges against the MNA for alleged political interference in the working of the DC office and humiliating a civil servant for not according him unlawful protocol.

On Monday, a similar complaint was made by Chakwal DC Ghulam Saghir Shahid against PTI MNA Sardar Zukfiqar Ali Khan for pressurising him to change dozens of revenue officials, including Patwaris and girdawars. Shahid said he raised the issue because he had not faced political interference during the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz administration in the Punjab. “Former Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had strictly forbidden all the DCs from making any posting and transfer of revenue officials on political recommendations,” Ghulam Saghir told The News.

Accordingly, as the staff officer to the erstwhile chief minister for four years, he had not issued any directives to the DCs to transfer or post any Patwari or revenue official. He said the nexus between politicians and Patwaris is extremely dangerous because it facilitated the illegal occupation of state land. The “poor landowners lose their property to land-grabbers with the help of Patwaris,” he said. Although, lowly ranked in the official scheme of postings, Patwaris are widely considered to be more powerful than senior civil servants because they maintain the official land and revenue records.

However, Information Minister Fawad Chauhdry said Punjab bureaucracy is still following the practices of Shahbaz Sharif era. He said the revolting civil servants will not be protected and they will be taken to task. When asked about the political interference, he said it is the job of MNAs to convey the feelings of the people in their area. The MNA in Chakwal should have not written to the DC but the DC also should not have bypassed his seniors and directly approached the Supreme Court and the Election Commission of Pakistan, Fawad added. He said there is no need for action against the MNAs facing allegations of political interference.

Last week, a female assistant commissioner in Rahim Yar Khan also complained of pressure after transferring local Patwaris. Her orders were rescinded after the issue became controversial. Before that, the District Police Officer Pakpattan, Rizwan Gondal, had alleged that he was transferred for political reasons after he refused to apologize to Khawar Maneka, an influential landowner of the area, for an incident involving the police.

When asked about the sudden increase of such incidents, a senior civil servant told The News that it is generally believed in bureaucracy that the PTI leadership would uphold its pledge of not to meddle in the affairs of the government. “The civil servants are now more confident that the prime minister will support them if they refuse to follow illegal orders of the influential politicians,” said the officer, requesting anonymity. A grade-19 officer from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told The News that the provincial bureaucracy there had behaved similarly during the tenure of the PTI government. “Whenever we were told by a politician to do something against the rules, we would tell them: Ok, if you force us, we will seek approval from PTI Chairman Imran Khan Sahib. Politicians were afraid of us reporting things to Khan Sahib and would normally withdraw their demands when we used to mention Khan Sahib,” he said. He said the same is now happening in Punjab, where officers have been emboldened by the assumption of office by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

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