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January 27, 2020

End of bureaucratic career of fearless administrator


January 27, 2020

Islamabad : Prominent former bureaucrat Fawad Hasan Fawad (FHF), who has been granted bail by the Lahore High Court (LHC) after finding no substance in the charges levelled by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against him, was a tough, fearless administrator, a no-nonsense officer, having displayed courage and panache for rule of law since early days in his career.

A few days before his bail, FHF retired after 33 years of public service and 18 months of incarceration because of the NAB charge. This was the first time ever that he faced such an allegation. There are many instances that emerged during his service to show that he was not cowed down or bullied by the mighty, his colleagues say.

FHF started his career as a district management officer (DMG) officer from Balochistan, a province where few officers from Punjab are remembered with reverence for many political and historical reasons. He worked there as assistant commissioner Hub, deputy secretary to the chief secretary and deputy commissioner, Quetta.

In Hub, he had refused to release four tribesmen of the Jamote clan, accused on charges of kidnapping, even after the orders of then Minister of State for Water and Power Jam Yousaf and was resultantly transferred after a tenure of only three weeks. In fact, when the minister threatened FHF with a transfer he refused to comply and responded: “I belong to Rawalpindi and this is the farthest I can be asked to serve as beyond this is only the Indian Ocean. Wherever you choose to transfer me will only take me closer to my home,” he had told Jam Yousaf.

Having established his reputation as a no-nonsense officer, when the Balochistan government needed someone to control the escalating tensions between Baloch and Pashtun tribes in Quetta, FHF was brought in. His access to the common man, impartiality and political neutrality soon earned him the respect of the people of Quetta and the province alike, where tribal chieftains and clan vendettas are a way of life. Tribal elders would willingly bring their local disputes to him for resolution and gladly accept his decision even as informal reconciliation.

As the deputy commissioner, Quetta, where FHF had the present NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal as a sessions judge and then as a judge of the Balochistan High Court (BHC), he left a visible impact on law and order and administration. He made many landmark decisions, including cancellation of illegal allotment of thousands of acres of state land to powerful individuals, including provincial ministers and senior government officials.

FHF not only banned the use of plastic (polythene) bags, in the early nineties but also ensured implementation of the orders, including defending it successfully before the then BHC Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. It was also during this time that he banned carrying weapons by tribal elders, an order which remained enforced during the time he served there. Resultantly, on one such occasion the Minister of Forest at the time (now a member of the National Assembly) Abdul Qahar Wadan’s guards were also arrested, in breach of the law.

In the aftermath of the clash between the Bugti and Raisani tribes in Quetta in 1994, FHF arrested Nawabzada Haji Lashkari Raisani, the Minister for Industries, and Nawabzada Saleem Akbar Bugti, then leader of opposition in the Balochistan Assembly. FHF’s faith in the rule of law was manifested by the fact that he personally led the arrest team, without allowing any interference from the political leadership.

When the decision for the arrest of Saleem Bugti was made and FHF decided to apprehend him from Bugti House, Quetta. Many advised him that Nawab Akbar Bugti would not take such a thing lightly. This was shocking for many who bear testament to FHF and senior Bugti having excellent personal relations manifested through their mutual love for literature on history and war.

In 1997, after serving for almost a decade in Balochistan, FHF was transferred to Islamabad, where he served in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as deputy secretary to then Principal Secretary, late AZK Sherdil.

In early 1999, FHF was appointed deputy commissioner, Lahore, where he clamped down hard on land grabbers and sabra mafias. He saved more than 2,000 kanals of cooperative societies land named Bucha Gardens from the clutches of organised mafia. He was focused on the implementation of the Lahore Road Rehabilitation Programme (LRRP), initiated by his predecessor Nasir Mehmood Khosa, in 1997; it included the first successful impartial drive for the removal of road encroachments in Lahore and widening of the now multi-lane “thruway” Jail Road, from Mozang Chungi to the old Lahore airport, in a period of less than four months. Particularly, as it included the removal of 11 petrol pumps established on the state land, in less than 12 hours, including one belonging to the maternal uncle of the sitting Prime Minister [Nawaz Sharif] and Chief Minister [Shahbaz Sharif].

FHF was awarded the Chevening Scholarship in 2001 and read law in Britain, where he earned an LLM degree from King’s College, University of London, with major emphasis on corporate finance.

He also served as Pakistan’s commercial counsellor in Germany, where he enhanced trade and commercial diplomacy. He established for the first time, a data-base of importers not only from Germany and Austria but many countries of the European Union using the offices of chambers of commerce and Industry, in the respective host countries. He was instrumental in getting the initial reduction and then removal of anti-dumping duties on Pakistan’s textile industry while working in unison with leading textile exporters Bashir Ali Mohammad (Gul Ahmed Group) and Mian Muhammad Latif (Chenab Group) et al.

On his return from Germany, FHF took leave from the government to work in the private sector from 2006-2008, with leading business groups and financial institutions.

Following the 2008 elections when Shahbaz Sharif formed government in Punjab, he asked FHF to serve as secretary, Services, Punjab. He purged the Punjab administration of illegally and irregularly appointed employees whose numbers ran into thousands, the civil service in Punjab, after years of mal-administration was infested with illegally appointed officials in every grade and rank. He used his knowledge and experience of service matters and removed all the illegally appointed officials, within the confines of the law and code of conduct. Many sacked officials approached the courts but none of them was reinstated, rather the dismissal orders were upheld.

Shahbaz Sharif’s administration inherited many sick infrastructure projects, including the Lahore Ring Road, Thokar Niaz Baig fly-over, Kasur-Lahore dual Carriage, Sialkot-Wazirabad Road, Pindi Bhattian-Chinot Road etc. After FHF had successfully cleansed the provincial administration as secretary Services, he was appointed secretary, Communications and Works, where he salvaged all the sick projects, which had become festering wounds. He completed the Thokar Niaz Baig fly-over which has delayed by years, in a record time of six months; the Kasur Road, Lahore Ring Road were revived and completed. He got the contract of Kamran Kiyani, a familial friend of his FHF’s elder brother reassigned, besides making him pay over Rs220 million as a penalty. However, a decade later, FHF was accused of taking a Rs50 million “pecuniary gain” in the Ashiana Case from the same gentleman, without affording him any benefit whatsoever.

FHF would travel far and wide to inspect government projects. On one such inspection, he reached the farthest corner of Punjab in Dera Ghazi Khan, Tuman Khosa to inspect the Zian Bharti road, for which Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had allocated special funds on request of his senior adviser and chief of Khosa clan; Zulfiqar Khosa. FHF was shocked to see the poor quality of work and blatant mismanagement in project implementation. He suspended the project in charge, who incidentally was Khosa’s tribesman and a close associate. Khosa who had status of senior minister, took it as a personal affront. FHF refused to give in to the dictates of the Baloch Sardar, and to reinstate the delinquent official. The crisis was resolved when Punjab government subsequently moved FHF to the provincial health department.

As Secretary Health, FHF managed to start 6 new medical colleges in the public sector for the first time since 1975, including Dera Ghazi Khan, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Sargodha and Lahore General Hospital, besides increasing the number of seats in the existing medical colleges by over 2,700. He also completed many public sector and hospitals in a record time of 12-14 months, including the renowned 282-bed Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology, 600-bed Bahawalpur Civil Hospital, , Shahdara Hospital Lahore, Lahore Institute of Neuro-sciences (at Lahore General Hospital) and a major expansion of the existing Children’s Hospital’s in Lahore and Multan.

FHF’s stand against unnecessary and costly procurements by hospital administrations, in collusion with selected manufacturers, cost him dearly. Such was the state of affairs that upon his arrival as secretary, solely one brand/make of CT scan machines was “qualified” on technical grounds for procurement in Punjab, whilst the likes of world-renowned brands such as Siemens had been ousted. As he attempted to curtail unnecessary procurements in the health department and hospitals, the mafia in Punjab’s health sector managed to spike “young doctors” against him for which they garnered willing support from politicians, who saw FHF as an obstacle to post their chosen few officers in their constituencies.

Again refusing to compromise on his principled position, and having dismissed the medical staff who choose to strike during hospital hours, he walked out of the health department sans recompense. During his tenure, through the introduction of third-party validation of immunisation and polio campaigns, the government managed to ensure zero polio cases in Punjab.

The provincial government had the uphill challenge of completing infrastructure projects especially BRT, before the end of its term. In order to make his Secretariat effective, the chief minister created the post of Secretary, Implementation, with exclusive responsibility of monitoring and execution of the prevailing development work. As Secretary Implementation, FHF instilled the use of technology and developed a software programme for the development budget which not only brought transparency to the allocation of resources but also ensured releases within a 48-hour timeframe, once authorised. At the same time, it also provided added security against any disbursements over and above the allocated development budget as the allocations, releases and expenditure (utilisation) was always visible and closely monitored by specialised teams at the chief minister secretariat (Implementation Wing), Planning & Development and Finance. The completion of the Lahore Metro Bus project and a large number of social sector and infrastructure projects within a year, by measured and calculated allocation instead of a generic spread, was the hallmark.

FHF’s work during his tenure as Secretary to the Prime Minister [Nawaz Sharif] from November 2015 to June 2018 was focused on the fruition of the China--Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), spearheading multiple infrastructure and energy projects and directing sector-wide investment across the nation. He acted as the focal person for the implementation of CPEC projects from Pakistan.

Upon joining the Prime Minister Office (PMO), FHF drastically cut down on the staff and budget of the Secretariat. On the administrative side, he eliminated the office of section officers altogether from the PMO. During his tenure the PMO worked with only one secretary, one additional secretary, five joint secretaries and ten deputy secretaries. Resultantly, the PMO’s expenditure of Rs770 million in 2012-13 was reduced by half to less than Rs325 million in 2013-14. Only increases in pay and allowances were adjusted in subsequent years, whilst in his last year at the PMO (2017-18) the budget remained less than Rs450 million. Throughout this period, the PMO never took any additional grants under any head for any purchases but was still able to provide transport, to the clerical staff, including two buses, one coach and an ambulance, from the savings due to the reduced budget.

The hallmark of his administration in the PMO was to encourage his subordinates to speak their minds before him as well as in an audience with the prime minister and give their independent views on file without any fear of repercussions. Under his administration there was a complete bar on communication of any orders of postings/transfers to ministries or attached departments, including Federal Board of Revenue, National Highway Authority, Federal Investigation Agency, Intelligence Bureau etc. The PMO was mandated to just assist the prime minister in the selection of federal secretaries and then allow them to choose their own teams.