Saturday November 27, 2021

Punjab minister ‘quits’ after two key officials’ removal

July 20, 2020

LAHORE: Punjab once again witnessed a major development as Minister for Wildlife and Fisheries Malik Asad Khokhar resigned hours after the transfer of commissioner Lahore Asif Bilal Lodhi.

The political and bureaucratic shake-up took place within a day after the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Lahore. Late Saturday night, Commissioner Bilal and Secretary Services Dr Shoaib Akbar, who were posted last week, were removed from their positions. Dr Shoaib has also served as the principal secretary to chief minister.

Asif Lodhi, who also served as commissioner Lahore eight months ago, was reappointed to the same post three days ago, reportedly after Asad Khokhar, who is a noted figure from Lahore associated with property business, played a role in his appointment.

Commissioner Lahore Asif Bilal and Secretary Services Dr. Shoaib Akbar were posted last week. Moreover, sources said that all the three of them including MPA Malik Asad Khokhar and officials like Asif Bilal Lodhi and Dr Shoaib were confidants of the chief minister Punjab.

Dr Shoaib served as the principal secretary to the CM whereas before assuming the office of commissioner Lahore in 2019, Asif Bilal was serving as special secretary and both of them were part of CM Punjab’s team.

Malik Asad Khokhar had won the by-election on the PTI ticket on a seat vacated by PML-N’s Khwaja Saad Rafique. Sources attribute the shakeup to the instructions of the prime minister due to a delay in completion of southern loop-3 of the Lahore Ring Road, which is situated close to a well-known private housing scheme. The commissioner also heads the Lahore Ring Road Authority. Bilal was on his second term on the same seat.

Insiders in the government revealed that when the PM asked chief minister about the posting of Asif Bilal Lodhi, the CM had clarified his position, saying that it was done on the advice of provincial minister Malik Asad Khokhar. The PM, while responding to the complaints lodged by his own party stalwarts regarding some controversial matters related to Lahore, ordered transfer of the senior officials. Minister's resignation was also sought, sources claimed, but Malik Asad Khokhar claims he resigned for personal reasons.

The News contacted Malik Asad Khokhar, who categorically denied his link with any constructions on the Lahore Ring Road. He said he was disappointed at speedy transfer, postings of officials of the Punjab government, including his own department, due to which ministers have to face embarrassing situation before their voters in their constituencies.

Khokhar also rejected the allegation that he played any role in the posting of the commissioner while influencing the CM. He said he decided to resign, and nobody had sought resignation from him.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government Sunday has issued notification regarding transfer of the commissioner and Secretary Services. Sources in civil secretariat revealed that during the visit PM Imran Khan asked Chief Secretary Jawad Rafique Malik about the posting of the said officers. The CS informed the PM that he was not taken into confidence while posting these two officers. On this the PM directed the CS to transfer the both officers.