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December 2, 2019

New reshuffle may end political meddling in Punjab bureaucracy

Top Story

December 2, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A majority of bureaucrats, who held key positions during the tenure of the Shahbaz Sharif government in Punjab, are back on most important posts in the province in the latest changes, their colleagues say.

They say some officers, who allegedly had ill-repute but were posted by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar at vital offices and were accused of indulging in malfeasance, have been sidelined.

The fresh reshuffle may end political interference in Punjab governance as the new chief secretary and inspector general police (IGP) are known for not giving in to such pressures.

However, all these are administrative changes, have nothing with the political side of the governance and the performance of the chief minister. Senior bureaucrats have a limited role to play as they are supposed to carry out the vision of the chief executive. Prime Minister Imran Khan has exuded confidence that since he has given the best team to Buzdar, the Punjab government will bring about significant improvement in government.

A close look at the reallocations throws up a long list of blue-eyed officers of the Shahbaz Sharif administration, who regained on prestigious positions.

All the “corruption” that the former chief minister committed as alleged by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was committed through these bureaucrats, who have now been given top, decision-making positions by the government.

The new chief secretary and IGP are rated as reputed hard taskmasters and had also been very preferred officers of Shahbaz Sharif because of their performance and delivery. Maj (R) Azam Suleman has been made the chief secretary and Shaoib Dastagir the Inspector General Police (IGP) of Punjab.

Azam Suleman was inducted in the district management group (DMG) when he was the PSO of Lt Gen Hamid Gul as director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Corps Commander of Multan.

He is the batch mate of an influential personality. “He was considered the choice officer of Shahbaz sharif during his ten-year rule in Punjab.

During Shahbaz Sharif’s tenure from 2008 to 2013, Azam Suleman was secretary of the C&W for more than three years and was instrumental in development works undertaken by the provincial government. Maximum provincial development funds were utilised through C&W department when Azam Suleman was its secretary.

Azam Suleman was played a fundamental role in the construction of flyovers, underpasses, and other mega projects in Punjab. He was also a leading member of the committee, which coordinated the construction of the Lahore metro.

He was so much liked by Shahbaz Sharif that he was retained by him in Punjab even after his promotion to grade 22. For him, the then chief minister designated the post of additional chief secretary, Home, where he served for 5 years, the longest tenure ever for an officer.

Azam Suleman is rated by his colleagues as a hard taskmaster and a deliverer.

Along with the then law minister Rana Sanaullah, Azam Suleman was involved in maintaining law and order in Punjab. The bureaucrat has immense security and anti-terrorism experience, which earned him the position of the interior secretary under the present government. During 2018 general elections, Azam Suleman was posted as the Chief Secretary of Sindh. In the past, he had served as DCO of Kasur and Faisalabad and as secretary of the food and forest Punjab. He understands the Punjab administration in and out.

It is anybody’s guess whether Azam Suleman will made Buzdar effective or ineffective as he is known for asserting himself.

His colleagues say Shoaib Dastagir, who was recently promoted to grade 22, is also an ace police officer. They find him upright and honest who plays with a straight bat.

Shoaib Dastagir had served as head of police in Toba Tek Singh and Sargodha. He was appointed the deputy inspector general (DIG), investigations, Lahore, during the Shahbaz Sharif government, which is described as the most critical placing.

He served for five years in the UN peacekeeping force in New York and held the senior most assignment there ever given to any Pakistan police officer. He was the senior policy adviser.

Shoaib Dastagir had also served as IGP of Azad Kashmir, and has been DIG and additional IGP, finance, in Punjab. He is said to have zero tolerance for culture of political meddling in police. It is believed that he will do all postings, transfers purely on merit. Even on the second day of assumption of office, he has introduced considerable changes in the police department.

He holds a Master’s degree from Britain as Chevening scholar and Hubert Humphrey fellowship in Human Rights from the United States.