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Thursday Sep 09 2021

New IG, new CS: Usman Buzdar is now more in control of his province

Chief Minister Usman Muzdar. File photo
Chief Minister Usman Muzdar. File photo

Since 2018 when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government came to power, most appointments in Punjab are like a revolving door, with little job security for officials.

On Monday, Pakistan’s most populous province got its seventh inspector general and its fifth chief secretary in just three years. Rao Sardar was named as the top cop replacing Inam Ghani. While, Dr Kamran Ali Afzal is the new Punjab chief secretary in place of Jawad Rafique Malik

This is not the first time that the core team in Punjab, which includes bureaucrats and ministers, have been shuffled. One reason for the ongoing musical chairs has been that while Prime Minister Imran Khan named Usman Buzdar as the chief minister of Punjab, he nonetheless insisted on making all important decisions in the province himself or allowed his team in the federal capital too.

In most cases, the ‘Wasim Akram Plus’ was kept out of the loop.

Take the controversial appointment of Umar Sheikh as the Capital City Police Officer in Lahore, who was removed earlier this year. Sheikh was named by advisor Shahzad Akbar.

In fact, such men and women who were pushed by Islamabad on to Punjab did not give much importance to the chief minister of the province and instead took instructions from the secretary to the prime minister, Azam Khan.

But all this changed after the horrific incident at Minar-e-Pakistan, where a woman was assaulted by men on Independence Day.

Soon after that, Buzdar put his foot down and sent a message to the Center, stating that if he is answerable for what happens in his province, he should have the right to choose his team.

The chief minister had concerns about the performance of the former IG and CS in Punjab. Malik could not get his team to bring down prices of essential items. While, Ghani would busy himself with only police paperwork and did little ground work.

In fact, surprisingly, the outgoing IG had no idea about what happened at Minar e Pakistan. While his Deputy Inspector General and Superintendent of Police in Lahore did not reach the site of the crime in time.

The chief minister himself found out about the incident through the media rather than through his police chief.

Now, over to the new men in office.

Kamran Afzal, the chief secretary, has previously held important portfolios and enjoys a good reputation. If the prime minister had his way this time, then he would have hand-picked Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera, who was also recommended by the chief minister. Sukhera has a close relationship with the prime minister. He is also a relative of Senator Ali Zafar.

Similarly, sources tell me that the federal government pushed Usman Buzdar to give Ghani another chance, as he is close to Azam Khan. But the prime minister weighed in and let Buzdar choose the man to lead the police.

Rao Sardar, the new IG, is known to be honest and professional. Some officials I spoke with were surprised at his appointment and wondered how long he would last in the current set up?