The massive bureaucratic reshuffle in Punjab, ordered directly by Prime Minister Imran Khan, brings back Shehbaz Sharif team of go-getters but in the process totally defeats and erodes the PTI’s own corruption narrative against the former chief minister.
All key positions in the new set-up have been given to Shehbaz Sharif’s blue-eyed officers, who were responsible for development and governance during the younger Sharif’s ten-year rule in Punjab.
Most of these officers were responsible for key projects, which are identified by PML-N and Shehbaz Sharif like Orange Train, Multan Metro, underpasses and mega projects of Lahore,Nandipur power project and others. More than a dozen of officers, now brought back to deliver for Usman Buzdar government, were directly working with Shehbaz Sharif in the CM Secretariat.
However, with their fingers crossed many in the bureaucracy wonder if Usman Buzdar would be able to lead this team of go-getters like Shehbaz Sharif successfully did in the past.
The new bureaucratic team being marketed as panacea for all the ills of PTI in Punjab is led my Major (R) Azam Suleman – the new Chief Secretary who has been Secretary C&W (the most lucrative dept in the province) for five years under Shehbaz Sharif.
Shehbaz Sharif took so much interest in development that he never appointed a C&W minister and directly interacted with Secretary Azam Suleman. Azam was instrumental in execution of mega projects in Punjab and Lahore. Reputed to be a tough no none sense officer, Azam Suleman was regarded as blue eyed of Shehbaz.
According to sources, Shehbaz Sharif had such a great liking for Major Azam and even after his promotion to BS-22 he was retained as ACS Home in Punjab for five years – longest tenure ever. Strangely, at that time the PTI used to blame him for Model Town incident.
Officers like Nabeel Awan, Abdullah Sumbal, Nadeem Mahboob, Javed Qazi, Sajid Dahl, all reputed ace officers of DMG/PAS had served in Shahbaz Sharif immediate team as secretary to CM for development, implementation and coordination. Some in the CM Secretariat and were responsible for governance and development in Punjab. All have been given key positions in the recent reshuffle.
Nabeel Awan posted as Secretary Health and also Livestock, Asad Sumbal as Secretary Finance, Nadeem Mahboob as Secretary Housing to implement PM housing vision, Javed Qazi as Secretary LG deptt, the most important department politically and administratively – Sajid Dahl as Secretary Higher Education.
Similarly, a number of former PSOs, who Shehbaz had trained as live-wire Young Turks, have been given key field assignments. For example, Sumair Syed, Amara Khan, Ahsan Waheed, Naseem Sadiq were PSOs to Shahbaz Sharif and he gave them key assignments as DCOs of Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and Kasur.
The PTI has now posted Naseem Sadiq as Commissioner DG Khan, Sumair Syed as DG LDA, Ammar Khan as DG RDA and Ahsan Waheed as Commissioner, Sahiwal. Capt Mahmood, who was responsible for Nandipur power project and Lahore horticulture – two favorite subjects of Shehbaz Sharif- is new commissioner Rawalpindi.
Capt Saif Anjum again a very upright and honest officer whom Shehbaz trusted with Irrigation deptt for three years has been made commissioner Lahore. Momin Agha, another favorite of Shehbaz who was his Secretary information and commissioner Faisalabad, both immensely important assignments, has been posted ACS Home.
Former CM Shehbaz’ Finance Secretaries Shaukat Ali and Hamid Yaqoob Sheikh have been placed on most important positions of ACS Punjab and Chairman Planning respectively. Abdullah Sumbal who was favourite Secretary of CM Shehbaz and whom he made commissioner Lahore, is now Secretary Finance.
Capt Asad Ullah, who executed Multan Metero is new Secretary C&W and Shaukat Ali who was Secretary Transport and supervised Orange Line is new ACS. Babur Tarar, who was commissioner Sahiwal, Secretary Health and Secretary Cooperatives under Shehbaz, will be Senior Member Board of Revenue in the new setup.
Iftikhar Saho, a well-reputed DMG officer, who was Secretary Planning under Shahbaz for almost five years and was directly responsible for all developments in Punjab, has been picked as Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Buzdar. A senior retired bureaucrat said that by bringing back the whole Shehbaz Sharif team, the PTI government has defeated its own mantra of corruption under Shehbaz Sharif.
Another peculiar feature of the latest reshuffle is that many officers considered close to Buzdar have been sidelined. Buzdar’s Principal Secretary Dr Shaoaib has been made OSD. Buzdar’s uncle Capt Ejaz, who was ACS; Tahir Khurshid whom Buzdar made as Secretary C&W and his Principal Secretary have also being sidelined. Tahir Khurshid had been commissioner of DG Khan under Buzdar.
Zafar Iqbal, Commissioner of Sargodha, said to be closely associated with Chaudhries of Gujrat, has also been sidelined. DG LDA Usman Mauzam, appointed by Buzdar, also made OSD. A number of field officers considered close to Buzdar including famous SSP Taimur Buzdar, who is his uncle, has been removed for active field assignment.
A keen observer of Punjab bureaucracy observed, “It is strange that Buzdar’s favourites have been sidelined and replaced by Shehbaz favourites.” He added, “How would this reality gel with PTI narrative of Shehbaz is bad and Buzdar is great.”