Saturday September 18, 2021

Posting of four officials: Buzdar exercises power that rests with his chief secretary

September 15, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has posted four of his deputy secretaries as additional secretaries (ASs), a power that is not vested in him under the provincial rules.

An official familiar with the Punjab rules of business told The News that such postings are normally done by the chief secretary through the Services & General Administration Department (SAGAD) headed by him, and not by the chief minister directly.

The development took place five days after new Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal assumed charge. “It is yet to be seen how he will respond to this violation of the rules of business and the encroachment of the authority of his office,” the official said, adding that the chief secretary could take it as a procedural lapse or a blatant transgression of the rules.

An order signed by the principal secretary to the chief minister, a copy of which is available with The News, posted four grade-18 deputy secretaries as assistant secretaries. Generally, ASs fall in grade-19, one-step higher than their original pay scale.

However, the order said that these officials would work on their own pay and scales. They have been kept attached to the chief minister’s office as they have been serving previously. The officers are Ali Abbas, Muhammad Naeem, Muhammad Awais Malik and Capt (retd) Aurangzaib Haider Khan. They would look after Gujranwala & coordination, the social sectors, Lahore, and Multan respectively as they had been doing before.

The official described it as the first “bouncer” of the chief minister to the new chief secretary and said that the order has put Kamran Ali Afzal in an awkward position.

According to the Punjab rules of business, the chief secretary through the S&GAD is empowered to post ASs, both regular and on an officiating basis. The current notification, however, has not even been copied to the chief secretary or the services secretary, whose authority the chief minister has exercised.

However, the ASs have been posted against the existing posts in the chief minister’s office. The official explained that under the rules, the chief secretary issues orders of the posting of grade 20 and above officers with the chief minister’s approval. Similarly, the deputy commissioners are also designated this way. However, the chief minister may ask the chief secretary to post a certain officer as the AS but can’t himself issue such an order even as an internal arrangement. In the federal government, a minister has the power to post an officer one step higher only for three months, but no such provincial rule is available.