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July 20, 2019

Cabinet reshuffle in Punjab: Two new portfolios introduced to accommodate ministers


July 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Two new portfolios – Chief Minister’s Inspection Team and Consolidation of Holdings Department – have been introduced in Punjab in the latest cabinet reshuffle.

In the fresh changes, Sumsam Bukhari has been made the Minister for Consolidation of Holdings Department. Muhammad Ajmal has been given the portfolio of the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team.

Meanwhile, a third change has been made in the information portfolio with its withdrawal from Bukhari and giving its additional charge to Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal, who already has Commerce, Industries and Investment Department.

Previously, aggressive Fayyazul Hassan Chohan had to leave the Information Ministry because of his objectionable remarks against the Hindu community as Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken a serious notice of the outburst and asked him to go. Soft-spoken Bukhari was then inducted as the Information Minister. He served in this position just for four and a half months.

“Bukhari was removed on the recommendations of some firebrand media advisors of the federal and Punjab governments for not being very belligerent as he should have been while presenting the official narrative in TV talk shows and elsewhere,” a source, familiar with the importance of the reshuffle of cabinet portfolios but not officially authorized to offer comments, told The News.

A senior official explained that the Consolidation of Holdings department was a small dormant, dying organisation and that the previous provincial government had stopped its operations on the ground that it serves as a tool in the hands of the land mafia. It falls under the Board of Revenue (BoR).

He said that the mafia particularly those having housing societies used to manipulate acquisition of land by using this department at the cost of small landowners.

At the federal level, the information ministry was taken back from Fawad Chaudhry sometime back and assigned to Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, who was made special assistant to the prime minister.

Like other provinces, the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team in Punjab is always headed by a chairman and has over half a dozen members as is the case now. Muhammad Ajmal has now been made minister of it after he was divested of the portfolios of Social Welfare and Baitul Maal Department.

The inspection team is currently chaired by a district management officer, Dr Pervez Ahmad Khan. The official said that under the Rules of Business the inspection team directly reports to the chief minister, who is only empowered to entrust a matter to it for investigation.

Already, Punjab has Malik Anwar as the Minister for Revenue and Chohan as the Minister for Colonies. There has been no minister for Consolidation of Holdings Department.

The Local Government and Community Development Department has been taken away from Minister Muhammad Basharat Raja and has not been assigned to anyone. Its additional charge was given to him after the arrest of Aleem Khan by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Following his release on bail, he has not been inducted in the cabinet again.

Recently, Basharat Raja changed Local Government Secretary Capt (R) Saif Anjum, who is said to be a distinguished and able officer. He was stated to be the batch mate of a powerful person.

However, while the additional charge of Local Government held by Basharat Raja has been dispensed with, he has been given the Social Welfare and Baitul Maal Department.

Yasir Hamayun has been deprived of Tourism Department. He is now left with only Higher Education Department, which has seen at least nine secretaries during the first ten months of the present government.

The Consolidation of Holdings Department is governed by a law, which says the BoR’s any officer authorised by it in this behalf may move the Consolidation Officer for the consolidation of holdings in an estate or a sub-division. Any two or more land-owners in an estate or a sub-division holding together not less than the minimum area of land prescribed in this behalf may make an application in writing to such officer of the consolidation of their holdings.