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Punjab govt decides to close three key depts in south Punjab

Panic gripped people in south Punjab as the Punjab government has decided closure of three key departments Finance, Home and Planning

March 09, 2021

MULTAN: Panic gripped people in south Punjab as the Punjab government has decided closure of three key departments Finance, Home and Planning, The News has learnt.

The proposed closure of departments will be finalised in the next Punjab cabinet meeting, a PTI elected representative disclosed. Political pundits in south Punjab feared that the closure of departments would pave the way for winding up the South Punjab Administrative Secretariat (SPAS) in the coming days. The decision would hamper the empowerment of the SPAS.

Documents say the Punjab Cabinet Secretariat Establishment Division notified on February 26, 2021 and transferred South Punjab Additional Chief Secretary Zahid Akhtar Zaman and posted him as additional secretary of Cabinet Division. However, the Establishment Division did not notify replacement of SPACS and the post still has been lying vacant since February 26.

The Election Commission of Pakistan and the general election 2018 statistics have confirmed that the south Punjab region gave a landslide victory to the PTI in 2018 on National as well as Punjab Assembly slots. The PML-N had won majority seats in central and north Punjab. The PTI made a clean sweep in NA constituencies in Multan, Layyah, Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan while the party won half of seats from Khanewal, Lodhran, Vehari, Bahawalpur and Muzaffargarh. The PML-N made a clean sweep in Sialkot, Gujranwala, Pakpattan and Okara. The PPP won five seats from south Punjab and the only seat of Raja Pervez Ashraf from Rawalpindi.

Political workers, civil society activists say the PTI is repaying the south Punjab kindness in terms of shrinking the size of the South Punjab Administrative Secretariat, making it more powerless. The closure of the Home Department will force the south Punjab citizens to travel to Lahore for licensing of private security agencies, arms dealing, regulation of arms and ammunition matters related to civil armed forces, a senior official confided to The News.

All the 11 south Punjab districts will have to submit requests to the Punjab Home Department seeking a ban on the entry of persons affecting peace and prevention and control of crime administration of the Police Department. The Punjab Home Department will control the dispatch of police parties to other provinces for recovery of stolen property and the arrest of accused persons and granting visa extension and detaining deportees, repatriating illegal immigrants and notifying reward for the arrest of terrorists and criminals, officials said.

The South Punjab Administrative Secretariat will seek permission from the Punjab Home Department to grant temporary parole in urgent situations and impose ban and penalty on objectionable material, pamphlets, booklets and newspapers.

The closure of the Finance Department would complicate the financial matters of district budgets and development matters in south Punjab, examination and scrutiny of proposals for re-appropriation and supplementary grants and their approval by the competent authority or forum. South Punjab would depend upon examination of schemes of new expenditures, preparation, communication and execution of financial sanctions in accordance with the delegation of financial power rules, examination and advice on matters directly or indirectly affecting the district finances.

The Punjab Finance Department will finalize maintenance of district, tehsil and town provincial accounts and reconciliation, service and administrative matters, having financial implications, of employees of the district governments in accordance with the rules and policies of the government, purchase of stores and capital goods for departments of the district government, as prescribed under the purchase manual and approval of rate and running contracts.

The closure of the Planning Department would shift the preparation of the Annual Development Programme, development planning coordination within the district governments, preparation of five years and other district development plans of south Punjab to the Punjab Planning Department.

Talking to The News, Punjab Parliamentary Secretary for Information and Culture Affairs Nadeem Qureshi said the Home, Finance and Planning Departments may close due to administrative arrangements. He said the bureaucracy proposed the closure for swift performance. However, he said the Punjab cabinet meeting scheduled in the next couple of days would finally decide or reject the proposal.