* Bureaucracy being shielded by federal govt, transferred officers being welcomed in other provinces
* PPP ministers not being accommodated, only Raja Riaz being listened to
By Amjad Warraich
LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s efforts to leave his personal mark on the provincial administration seem to be going in vain, mainly due to his party’s politics of confrontation.
The factors undermining his performance include an untamed bureaucracy, a local bodies system established under former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf’s devolution of power plan, a judiciary that his party does not recognise as legitimate, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) marriage of inconvenience with the Pakistan People’s Party.
All these factors have their roots in the PML-N’s confrontational politics, which might be good for the Sharifs in the long run, but are eclipsing the chief minister’s achievements at the moment.
The civil bureaucracy is the most important tool in the hands of the provincial chief executive, who uses it to implement his agenda. Shahbaz gets the bureaucracy to perform by creating a threat perception for the officers, with either transfer outside the Punjab or penalties. The method only works when the officers have no alternative options for their postings.
The strategy worked during 1997 when the PML-N had governments in the Centre as well as the four provinces. However, there is now a PPP government in Islamabad, and the other three provinces welcome any officer posted out of the Punjab. The federal government has accommodated many officers transferred from the province.
Former CM Pervaiz Elahi’s chief secretary Salman Siddique, his principle secretary GM Sikandar, information secretary Taimur Azmat Usman, livestock secretary Babar Yaqoob, implementation and coordination secretary Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera and many others who were kicked out of the Punjab are now working for the federal government.
As for the local governments system, it has always been a major instrument to promote the cause of the PML, whichever faction it might be. The local governments have billions of rupees at their disposal besides having hundreds of job opportunities and other powers. These funds are not available to the Shahbaz government as the PML-N has only a few nazims in the province. The government has wasted almost one year and a lot of energy in tackling this problem, but still seems far from getting complete control of the district nazims.
Another problem with the system is that the elected nazim heads the district and tehsil governments. Local administrations always play an instrumental role in furthering the provincial chief executive’s interests. With the opposition occupying most of the nazims’ posts, the government does not have this advantage. In most of the cases, PML-N legislators are in confrontation with the nazims.
Efforts to restore the old commissionerate system are underway. Commissioners have been posted in all the nine divisions of the province to make nazims ineffective but the move is yet to bear fruit due to certain constraints. Even the Punjab Board of Revenue and the Services Department are reluctant to surrender their powers in favour of the commissioners. The government has fielded almost all the provincial secretaries in its struggle to cut the nazims to size. However, these efforts are actually earning the government a bad name besides damaging Shahbaz’s image.
If that was not enough, Shahbaz’s continued refusal to recognise judiciary has also become a hurdle in “good governance”. Not only is the Punjab government not resorting to judicial set-up if and when needed, it is also not willing to forcefully defend its stance when another party takes the provincial government to court. That means he lets go of the opportunity to explain his stance appropriately and hence cannot expect judicial endorsement for his policies.
There are numerous examples when the honourable judges have stayed his government’s actions and he could not do much. Resultantly, the judiciary did not witness the defence put up much of a show when the nazims and many others took the Punjab government to court.
The PMLN-PPP coalition has been unable to form a working relationship. The PML-N has left the federal government and wants the PPP to leave the provincial cabinet but the PPP is unwilling to do so. Since the PML-N does not have a clear majority in the Punjab Assembly, it cannot sack the PPP ministers. The situation is undermining the Shahbaz government.
Shahbaz is not willing to accommodate PPP ministers except Senior Minister Raja Riaz, whose loyalty is already being doubted by the PPP hawks. The expansion of the cabinet had been pending for six months. The government is yet to appoint parliamentary secretaries. District Zakat and Ushr Committees are also facing a similar fate. The coalition has recently finalised the formation of standing committees in the Punjab Assembly. Development funds have not been released for PPP legislators’ schemes so far. They are so frustrated that some of them resorted to beating a Shahbaz-appointed district coordination officer in Mandi Bahauddin. The PPP ministers have no say even in their own departments. Even backbenchers in the assembly like Najaf Abbas Sial have come in the forefront to issue statements against Shahbaz.
Given these circumstances, Shahbaz does not have any solutions at hand. Unfortunately, he is losing credentials as a strong and effective administrator with the passage of time, besides failing to leave an impact on the province like he did during his previous term from 1997-99. (Daily Times, 16 Jan 2009)