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September 29, 2020

Punjab CM Usman Buzdar’s ‘teeka’ governance

Top Story

September 29, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Amid reports of possible holding of local government elections in the province in 2021, the chief minister Punjab is in the process of making administrative changes that are raising many eyebrows.

While the controversy regarding the appointment of the CCPO Lahore has not yet settled, Usman Buzdar has appointed one of his favourite officers -- Tahir Khurshid -- as secretary local government.

More controversial is the fact that the chief ministerhas decided to give Khurshid the additional charge of the chairman Chief Minister’s Inspection Team (CMIT), which serves as a watchdog over all departments for the provincial chief executive.

On top of everything, Tahir Khurshid is the officer who had turned an approver for NAB in the Ashiana housing case against Shahbaz Sharif and his associates, Usually, the chairman CMIT is not given any executive charge to avoid any conflict of interest. But in this case, the secretary local government, whose outreach is the entire province, is also Chairman CMIT. That means that the local government department will remain free from the monitoring of the CMIT.

The newly posted secretary local government Tahir Khurshid has served as the commissioner DG Khan — the home district of CM Buzdar. He was then posted as Secretary C&W, the most lucrative department in the provincial government.

Now Khurshid as secretary local government is head of all the local councils in Punjab. As a source said: “How can he inquire into the matters of local councils and their administrators in Punjab as chairman CMIT when he himself supervises all the administrators?”

The situation has become more problematic as Punjab doesn’t have elected local councils, and civil servants and bureaucrats have been appointed ‘administrators’ by the PTI government.

All municipal services -- like solid waste, street lights, sewerage, roads, building control, land use, all regulatory powers and prime urban properties -- are in control of these civil servants empowered as administrators by the present government.

In this capacity, these administrators report to and are supervised by the secretary local government and community development. The sources said that Tahir Khursheed now holds a late evening meeting with the chief minister almost every day.

Last year, when the PM had posted a new Chief Secretary, Azam Suleman, and IG Shaoib Dastgir with the mandate to cleanse the Punjab administration, Tahir Khurshid was immediately removed and sidelined. Later, Khurshid staged a comeback in a more powerful position, while both Azam Suleman and Shoaib Dastgir have been removed.

The mandate of the CMIT as per the rules of business is to inquire into complaints of maladministration, including bad governance, abuse of authority and corruption, on the orders of the chief minister.

Meanwhile, two highly reputed professional police officers have been posted out of Punjab by the new dispensation of the IG and CCPO. The two officers surrendered to the Establishment Division had both served as capital city police officers (CCPOs).

The BS-21 and BS-20 officers sent to the Centre are BA Nasir and Zulfiqar Hameed. Nasir was serving as the additional inspector general (AIG) establishment and Hameed as additional IG operations. Both officers enjoy a good reputation.

According to media reports quoting provincial government sources, these officers have been transferred owing to their ‘long stay in the Punjab’. These reports said that more names were being earmarked for their transfer out of the province on the same grounds. The government was trying to select their replacements from other provinces.

It is also reported that the Punjab government was unhappy with the recent activities of nearly 50 police officers after they held a meeting at the CPO office to show their resentment against CCPO Umar Sheikh’s appointment. They had drafted a resolution against the CCPO and extended support to former IGP Shoaib Dastgir.

Dawn in its report published on Sunday, quoting some independent officers, termed the transfers of the two senior officers “politically motivated”. It was also reported that Punjab is already short of senior officers as out of the 18 sanctioned posts of additional IGs in Punjab only 13 were currently occupied.

According to a senior government servant who has served for a long time in Punjab, the two police officers transferred out of Punjab are considered “role models” within the PSP service. The source, while referring to the known repute of an officer in Punjab as ‘teeka’ said the manner in which the Punjab chief minister deals with the bureaucracy in Punjab could best be described as the “teeka governance of Buzdar.”