Friday June 21, 2024

A tale of transfers

By Editorial Board
May 24, 2022

There are only 11 countries in the world that have a larger population than Punjab, which houses over 120 million people. Playing games with the governance of such a large province of a country can only lead to chaos. This is what happened in Punjab under the Usman Buzdar government. A report by this newspaper has revealed that the Buzdar-led government – in less than 40 months of its tenure – transferred over 3000 officials against 420 key secretariat and field positions. Most of these transfers were in stark violation of both the tenure policy and the superior judiciary’s judgment in the Anita Turab case. What this means is that the previous government was in a perpetual hurry to post and transfer officials who were supposed to deliver services to the public in an efficient manner. Such quick postings and transfers wreaked havoc with the governance model of the province and most key officials were unable to settle in any one position before their transfer orders came about – mostly based on a whimsical impulse that emanated from the chief minister’s house.

The entire period of the Buzdar government was nothing but a game of musical chairs that no official could have enjoyed. Normally, in case of such premature postings and transfers, some reason has to be stated in the file. But since 2018, most transfers did not reflect any valid reason in the files. This unexplainable situation was somehow ignored by the former prime minister who preferred not to notice or just looked the other way. It is noteworthy that these transfers were in violation of the apex court’s orders in the Anita Turab case, according to which the government could not transfer officials before completion of their assigned tenures. The Supreme Court of Pakistan had set clear guidelines to safeguard the tenure of officials but the Punjab government kept posting them to new positions within weeks and months. The details are startling as over a thousand additional commissioners, commissioners, deputy commissioners, directors general and secretaries received new posting and transfer orders in the province.

The worst affected department was the Police Department where nearly 2,000 senior police officers were changed in quick succession. These officers included city, district, and regional police officers, DIGs, and SDPOs. According to the report, over 300 higher police officers received transfer orders and over 1,600 SDPOs took up new positions during the Buzdar government. It is also revealing that the major focus of these postings and transfers was Dera Ghazi Khan, Gujranwala, Lahore, and Pak Pattan – whereas Chakwal experienced the minimum number of administrative and police postings and transfers. In less than 40 months, Punjab saw five chief secretaries and seven inspectors general of police. The scale with which this happened was unprecedented in the history of the province, also highlighting how the previous Punjab government had a complete lack of interest in any kind of governance. As the people of Punjab suffered, there was no remedial measures in sight – and almost down to his last day in office former PM Imran Khan continued to defend his choice of Usman Buzdar as CM Punjab. The PTI had come to power promising a change from the corruption, nepotism and favouritism of the past. During its time in power, though, it continued to defend such transfers and seemed to believe it deserved the benefit of the doubt for every decision it made. This is not how governments should function.