Former official speaks his mind against KP govt

Source:  Dawn.com Published in Politics on Friday, April 11, 2014

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf may pride itself on achieving the seemingly unthinkable – bringing good governance to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and putting an end to political interference. But a letter addressed to Chief Minister Pervez Khattak by his now former chief secretary presents what an officer described as a damning indictment and charge-sheet of his rule.

Muhammad Shehzad Arbab, who relinquished his job as Chief Secretary on Tuesday, in his demi official letter to Pervez Khattak on March 11 cited several instances to highlight differences over key policy matters and questionable decisions.

In his letter; and Dawn has its copy, the ex-chief secretary recalled his appointment by the federal government on the recommendation of the PTI leadership “with a clear understanding that a reform agenda of its government focusing on transparency was to be implemented, and expeditiously”.

“I was always guided by the words of the founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, delivered on April 14, 1948, at Peshawar that it is (my) obligation to remain compliant with constitution and law. Hence (I should) not be obliged to be servile or unthinkingly submissive to political executive,” Shehzad Arbab wrote.

The officer was handpicked by PTI chairman Imran Khan to implement his party’s reform agenda with assurances of full backing and non-interference. But differences over key policy decisions, political interference and treatment meted out to officers, soon put him at odds with his political boss – Pervez Khattak.

Officials familiar with the tense, and often not-on-speaking terms, relationship between the two say Imran Khan had personally intervened to resolve issues, but a stormy meeting between Khattak and Arbab in Islamabad in presence of the party leadership, brought the matter to a head.

Mr Arbab wrote: “My endeavours to implement the proclaimed reform agenda was publically appreciated by the PTI chairman, but the strenuous efforts of my team soon fell casualty to political expediency.

“A wide chasm between the declared policy and practice became noticeable, giving rise to divergence of opinion on various issues,” he added. “Resultantly, senior officers who disobliged were humiliated openly, which disillusioned and disheartened the bureaucracy.

“Dejected at the disparaging and insulting treatment, a Capital City Police Officer tendered his resignation from service, which I did not forward,” the former chief secretary wrote.

“More disturbingly,” the former chief secretary wrote, “transfers are frequent and made on directives with no regard to tenure or competence. It was pointed out many a time that such a practice was against administrative discipline.

“An officer against whom inquiry was under way by NAB has been posted as Commissioner of a division,” he regretted. “Public representatives frequently intervene for transfer of officers/officials and there are numerous examples where officers have been transferred several times in a matter of months,” Arbab noted.

Highlighting some important cases, Shehzad Arbab drew the chief minister’s attention to a meeting held on Nov11 last year to discuss the Draft Rules of Business to provide a basic framework for governance. “The establishment secretary recorded the minutes of the meeting reflecting therein the decisions made, but the recorded decisions were changed. This was against official propriety,” he wrote. “Your good self was requested either to approve the minutes as recorded or convene another meeting to review the earlier decisions. Neither has been done which has created confusion and uncertainty among government functionaries.”

DI KHAN JAILBREAK

Referring to the inquiry report into the audacious Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak, the former chief secretary lamented that disciplinary action should have been taken immediately against those responsible for security lapse.

“But the file was held up in the Chief Minister’s Secretariat for about four months. And when it was returned, one of the officials was exonerated while action was ordered against the others.

“This was unprecedented as defence is offered by an accused himself in consequence of a charge sheet, leading either to his exoneration or penalty. The Law Department raised observations on this premature exoneration, but again the file is pending decision.”

The officer in question, who is currently the principal staff officer to the chief minister, was deputy commissioner of Dera Ismail Khan at the time of the jailbreak. The law department, officials said, had also sent in its opinion on the matter and pressed for action. A decision is still awaited.

Referring to the much-delayed appointment of the managing director for Bank of Khyber, Arbab noted in his missive that while KP held majority shares of the premier financial institution, the appointment of its chief executive had been put on hold unduly for a long time. The position of the MD is vacant since March 2003.

In his letter, Arbab also referred to the ongoing controversy regarding ex-secretary, Workers Welfare Board, Mr. Tariq Awan. He said that Mr Awan had manipulated a meeting of the WWB board without participation of its chairman and won a decision for his extension.

“Apart from having worked for over six years after superannuation, he happens to be a corrupt official to the hilt. The NAB has been investigating various cases of embezzlement and irregular appointments.

“Based on his illegal decision, he on his own assumed charge of the office of secretary. A summary was moved for his immediate ouster, but a decision has yet to be made while the individual is forcibly, and without lawful authority, occupying an important position,” he noted.

Officials said an earlier separate summary on the issue was moved to the chief minister to explain the situation, but instead of taking a decision, he returned the file to the law department for further opinion. The law department, officials said, vehemently opposed his re-instatement. The file is now again with the chief minister.

An aide said the chief minister was not pleased with Arbab’s missive and wanted to pay back in the same coin. “The chief minister thought the chief secretary’s letter amounted to a charge-sheet against his government,” the aide said.

Shiraz Paracha, spokesman for the chief minister, was approached to seek Mr Khattak’s version on Arbab’s demarche. He said he would call back with an answer if and when he got one. No reply came through.

CM’S REPLY

The chief minister came up with a terse reply to the charges.

“(The) chief secretary’s letter is more like a charge sheet. This cannot be done by a bureaucrat. What he has said are all routine matters.”

He denied he interfered with posting and transfers, stating that everything was done with the chief secretary’s concurrence and consent.

“Ï could have put my foot down but I never did that,” he said. “Let the chief secretary say how many of those he posted out had completed their tenure,” he affirmed. “Ï discussed everything with him from A to Z.”

On rules of business, Pervez Khattak said after passage of the 18th Amendment, the rules of business were bound to change, but he charged that the chief secretary changed the minutes of the meeting.

On exoneration of the deputy commissioner in Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak, the chief minister said the officer did not have magisterial powers and was not required to visit the jail.

About the Workers Welfare Board secretary, the chief minister said he had asked the labour secretary to convene a meeting and “let them decide who they want to be the secretary”.

He also denied that the commissioner of Bannu had any NAB inquiry against him. “There are many other officers who were probed by NAB and they are still serving,” Mr Khattak added.

”Ï may write to the prime minister against him," the chief minister said.


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Written by Ismail Khan


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