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March 31, 2020

Fight against COVID-19: Several Shahbaz trained officials helping all provincial govts


March 31, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A large number of officers, trained by Shahbaz Sharif as the Punjab chief minister during his ten-year rule, are ably helping all provincial governments in the fight against the devastating coronavirus pandemic, data shows.

Officials monitoring the working of the bureaucrats told The News that these district management group (DMG) and provincial service officers worked in the former chief minister’s team in Punjab from 2008 to 2018 in key positions in his office, as field officers or heads of departments.

They said the incumbent secretaries of specialized health and primary health in Punjab Barrister Nabeel Awan and Capt. (R) Muhammad Usman, considered ace DMG officers, served in important positions with Shahbaz Sharif and were literally trained and groomed by him for challenging roles.

Awan was the implementation secretary with the ex-chief minister, and served as the district coordination officer (DCO) Gujranwala and Commissioner Sahiwal in his administration. He also closely worked with him as his personal staff officer (PSO).

Usman was deputy commissioner Lahore during Shahbaz Sharif’s rule and also worked on demanding and challenging position of Director, Food. As both officers were respected and trusted by him, he always assigned them sensitive tasks.

On March 27, the five-member full bench of the Lahore High Court headed by Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan, on more than one occasion, made encouraging observations about the efforts undertaken by Awan and Usman. They displayed conduct most becoming of public servants and stood out for being most efficient, well informed and in walking their talk.

Dera Ghazi Khan Commissioner Naseem Sadiq, one of the celebrated officers of the provincial civil service, bears the brunt of COVID-19 since the largest quarantine facility for pilgrims returning from Iran has been established under his supervision.

Naseem Sadiq has been Shahbaz Sharif’s PSO, and deputy commissioner of Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan in his government. He enjoyed his confidence and trust, primarily for his administrative acumen and hard work.

The Balochistan government has called the former chief minister’s blue-eyed Noorul Amin Mengal for emergency duty once things at Taftan got mismanaged. Mengal is presently the communication and works secretary in Balochistan and has been made in-charge of quarantine operation.

He had worked as the secretary to the former chief minister and deputy commissioner of Lahore and Faisalabad. He did phenomenal development work in Faisalabad during his posting there and also established Shahbaz Sharif’s favourite department - the Punjab Food Authority.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has also got the services of a leading aide of the ex-chief minister, Ali Jan, who worked as the health secretary and revamped district hospitals in Punjab. He has been placed by the Department for International Development (DIFD) of Britain in KP as its technical adviser on the request of the provincial finance and health minister.

Ali Jan had also worked as the former chief minister’s PSO and later served as DCO Sheikhupura and primary health secretary. He turned around all district headquarters hospitals and specializes in transparent and flawless health sector procurement. The KP government is utilising the skills and knowledge he acquired in Punjab to fight against the corona crisis.

The Sindh government, which is doing well as compared to other provinces and federal government through personal leadership and efforts of Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, has drafted Najam Ahmad Shah, presently Chairman of the Sindh Board of Investment, into his corona task force. The chief minister is operating through this task force led by him.

Najam Shah has worked with Shahbaz Sharif as specialised healthcare secretary. The institutions like Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute (PKLI), Rawalpindi Kidney Center and Teyyip Erdogan Hospital were executed by Najam Shah as the Punjab health secretary. He originally worked in the energy sector and established Qauid-i-Azam Solar Plant Bahawalpur.

He is reputed to be a hard task master and no nonsense type of officer. He enjoyed trust of Shahbaz Sharif primarily due to his honesty, hard work and delivery. He also worked as the DCO Faisalabad.

In the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) administration, the focal person for the COVID-19 crisis is Ali Randhawa, another young DMG officer, who is working there as the home secretary and overseeing the quarantine facility and crisis management, under the direct supervision of GB Chief Secretary Khurram Agha.

Randawa had also been Shahbaz Sharif’s PSO and the deputy commissioner of Gujrat and Hafizabad. Khurram Agha had been the Multan commissioner and housing secretary in the ex-chief minister’s administration. A senior officer, who has seen Punjab administration from close quarters, remarked to The News that this is a dream team — all these officers have gilt-edged integrity and are battle hardy.

They have worked in 2010 floods and dengue epidemic and have what it takes to manage a crisis but all what needs is clear political guidance and vision, he said.