Monday March 27, 2023

Punjab bureaucratic reshuffle: Several changes in education, police departments in eight months

April 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: In its first eight months, the Punjab government has posted seven secretaries for higher education, four secretaries for school education and an equal number of Inspectors General of Police (IGPs), which reflects the frequent changes of senior officials.

The higher education secretaries, who worked in this position on an average of a little over one month, include Khalid Saleem, Imran Sikandar Baloch, Sarah Wani, Sajid Dahl, Capt (R) Muhammad Mahmood (just one day), Momin Agha (less than two months) and Shaukat Ali.

Shaukat Ali was notified as the food secretary a day earlier. During the Shahbaz Sharif administration, he worked as the finance secretary and later as the transport secretary in-charge of Lahore Orange Line project.

The four secretaries for school education for variousperiods included Mrs. Ambreen Raza, Imran Sikandar Baloch, Zafar Iqbal and now Capt. (R) Muhammad Mahmood.

A senior official privy to these bureaucratic changes told The News that they are mostly made on the demands of lawmakers. The staff and officers in the school education and higher education departments command a considerable clout over the federal and provincial legislators because they are made the presiding and polling officers in elections, he said and added that when the secretaries resist such calls, they are replaced.

The normal tenure for a secretary is 2-3 years as per the famous Supreme Court judgment in the Anita Turab case which ruled that a premature transfer has to be for reasons to be recorded and not at whims and wishes of the government and ministers.

Recently Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa also commented that education is not priority of government, hence need for private sector. The notification posting agriculture secretary Dr Wasif Khurshid as the transport secretary a day ago has been cancelled for unexplained reasons. A Punjab government spokesman told this correspondent that the bureaucratic reshuffle was ordered by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and lawmakers have nothing to do with these changes. He said the chief minister understands well which officer will serve better in which position. Meanwhile, Momin Agha, who was working as higher education secretary, has now been made the information secretary. He had served for nearly two years as the information secretary in Shahbaz Sharif’s tenure.

The four IGPs include Kaleem Imam, Muhammad Tahir, Amjad Javed Salimi and now Capt. (R) Arif Nawaz. Most of them were transferred in the wake of a serious controversy. Kaleem Imam had been made the IGP by the caretaker government. He was removed by the new administration after the general elections to have an officer of its confidence in this important slot.

The new IGP, Arif Nawaz, held the same position in Punjab when the sensational rape and murder of little girl Zainab took place in Kasur, igniting a nationwide fury and uproar during the Shahbaz Sharif government. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and all other opposition parties had severely attacked the Punjab police for their politicisation, inefficiency and incompetence, demanding the removal of the top brass of the force.

Only a month after his selection as the Punjab IGP, Muhammad Tahir was removed amid an intense uproar, also provoking the resignation of the much-applauded and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s favourite, Nasir Durrani, as police reforms commissioner. After that, the fate of this forum is unknown.

Durrani became upset over Muhammad Tahir’s transfer. His removal had come about after a growing realisation in the official circles that he was unable to carry out the task required of him by the government during its tone-setting period. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had quickly suspended the notification regarding the IGP’s replacement, citing it as a violation of its directive barring transfer and posting of officials before the Oct 14 by-elections.

At the time, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain had stated that the Punjab police chief has been replaced because of his “failure to follow the directives of the provincial authorities” and “the IGP was not implementing the directives. We have sent a message to the bureaucracy that the PTI government means business.”

Among other reasons, a major cause of his moving out of the position was his refusal to post the district police officers recommended by different figures. Now, Amjad Javed Salimi has been shown the door after some six months. It was felt that the police did not act as desired to arrest Hamza Shahbaz when the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had raided the Model Town Lahore residence of Shahbaz Sharif twice last week. Finally, the action had to be called off in the wake of grant of bail to Hamza. The NAB has no force of its own, and mainly relies on the backup support of police and Rangers when it conducts such operations.

In February this year, the reputed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) IGP, Salahuddin Mehsud, was also transferred as he opposed the government move to introduce a parallel system between police and the Levies force. He was of the opinion that such system was against the Supreme Court orders. KP Chief Secretary Salim Khan was also simultaneously changed for the same reason. In November last, Islamabad IGP Jan Muhammad was abruptly sidelined due to a violent episode at the farmhouse of Senator Azam Swati in which a tribal family was beaten and confronted with a police case. The Supreme Court took notice of the sudden removal of the IGP and the thrashing of the poor family, and Swati had to step down as federal minister to avert his disqualification threatened by the then chief justice apex court.