CM, CS deadlock leading to public sector malaise

'Sources have even said that there have been differences between the chief minister of Punjab and the chief secretary on many issues. CM Parvez Elahi's focus has only been his hometown.'

The repeated requests of Punjab Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal to the federal government that he cannot work with the provincial government has given rise to questions and compromised service delivery of the public sector.

Both provincial and federal governments are not on the same page on the posting of the Punjab chief secretary.

If the deadlock persisted, the chief secretary might go on leave, with the Punjab government assigning the responsibility of the top administrative office to someone else.

There are also reports that due to the prime minister’s foreign trips, the cabinet committee meeting to select the new chief secretary of Punjab may be delayed.

As the province has been going through unusual circumstances owing to floods in the southwestern parts, the need is to bridge the difference between the top two offices of Punjab.

It has become clear that whether Kamran Ali Afzal stays in office as administrative head or not, one thing is certain now his position has definitely been strengthened.

Sources have even said that there have been differences between the chief minister of Punjab and the chief secretary on many issues. CM Parvez Elahi’s focus has only been his hometown. He first gave his district the status of a division, and this was done with high speed. Afterwards, the direction of government resources was turned towards Gujrat, with hundreds of new vacancies created.

The provincial cabinet committee had reportedly completed the process of approving funds exclusively for the development of Gujrat without the Planning and Development Board raising any objections.

It is also learnt that the CS Afzal had even said he was not just the chief secretary of Gujrat but of the whole Punjab.

On the other hand, CM Elahi, in a public meeting, expressed that he would summon the CS and the inspector general of police to appear before the privileges committee of the Punjab Assembly.

Moreover, since Elahi became the CM of Punjab, there has been a wave of reshuffling in Punjab. In some cases, the chief secretary was not consulted and was not given a free hand to constitute his own team. The bureaucracy led by the chief secretary is particularly fuming about the appointment of a non-civil servant Muhammad Khan Bhatti as principal secretary to the chief minister of Punjab. Former additional chief secretary home Syed Ali Murtaza, a batch-mate of CS Afzal, was also allegedly removed by CM Elahi on May 25. It was said that the PTI elite had forced CM to remove Ali from the Home Office.

A senior officer on anonymity said that the federal government would not easily appoint the person the Punjab government wanted and vice versa. The CS Punjab, instead of making repeated requests to the federal government, should focus on much-needed administrative reforms in the province.  His role as a social media-friendly officer was widely appreciated.

Taking advantage of a weak political government, he may show his mettle. He had rightly taken notice of uncovered manholes when a minor lost his life in Faisalabad. All administrative machinery across Punjab had actively played its part to cover the open manholes.

If he only activates two wings of his Services and General Administrative Department, including the implementation and coordination wing and the regulation wing, it would be a great favour to the public sector. Despite his overseeing and monitoring, there was poor coordination and complaint redressal in the departments. The role of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority was exposed during the recent floods.

It surfaced that the provincial disaster manager had neither sufficient funds nor powers to regulate all other responsibilities to handle catastrophes.  The CS should probe all those who remained negligent during floods and punish the guilty. He should also plan how to save hundreds of billions of rupees of losses besides precious human lives in future.

There are multiple other issues needing his attention like smog, price hike, environmental issues, irresponsive public sector, directory retirement, undue departmental litigations and filling up of vacant positions. His office should also share what his master plan was, to what extent he succeeded and what hurdles he himself had to face to deliver as the administrative boss.

Javed Iqbal is a special correspondent covering the Punjab government with a particular focus on bureaucracy. He has unearthed a number of mega scams while working with leading media houses. He tweets @javedjahangiri and can be reached at