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Punjab

The tale of an ‘unwilling’ chief secretary

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LAHORE:

From the wheat crisis to the sugar crisis and from the fertiliser crisis to the crisis of price hike in general, it was business as usual during the one-year tenure of the incumbent Chief Secretary of Punjab, Kamran Ali Afzal.

It is a tenure that, reportedly, he himself now wants to be cut short owing to his alleged differences with the provincial government.

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Kamran Ali Afzal, a BS-22 officer, was posted as CS Punjab by the then Usman Buzdar government in September 2021. Kamran Ali Afzal, not the senior-most officer in the province at the time of his posting, was seemingly challenged at the very outset of his posting by an officer more senior to him, Baber Hayat Tarar. He even reportedly issued a notification in this regard. However, Kamran Ali Afzal managed to get the issue resolved with the support of the then chief minister of Punjab.

Baber Hayat, as per the media reports, avoided attending meetings chaired by CS Punjab Kamran Ali Afzal those days.

From the very word go, the chief secretary has been grappling with one issue after another, the first being the issue of price hike, which continues even today, though much of it has to do with the overall deteriorating economic situation of the country.

This was followed by the sugar crisis, which was a managerial issue, though this issue had emerged before his tenure and aggravated during the tenure of his predecessor.

This was followed by the unavailability of fertilisers, which again was chiefly a managerial issue.

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The crisis of wheat is an issue that he inherited from his predecessors, an issue that he would, God forbid, pass on to his successor.

These issues became public knowledge when the media took them up by reporting round-the-clock on the alleged shortcomings of the provincial administration armed with a long string of officers deputed to anticipate such crises and with layers of departments and companies tasked with ensuring that such issues are dealt with well before they ballooned into a full-blown crisis.

Even when responsibility is to be fixed, it normally rests with the low-ranking officers and for officers at higher grades, suspension is seen to be a major punishment in most cases.

Read Centre, Punjab at odds over transfer of Lahore CCPO

The Murree tragedy, which had claimed 22 lives, also took place during the tenure of Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal. The incident was a direct outcome of alleged negligence by the civil and police administrations.

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Currently, the chief secretary has been on a 14-day leave, during which he hoped to be repatriated to the Center and to be relieved of his duties as the chief secretary.

The Chairman of the Planning & Development Board, Abdullah Khan Sumbal, has assumed the formal charge of the CS’s office.

The chief secretary, reportedly, had differences with the provincial government on the issue of transfers and posting.

The chief secretary had requested the Central government back in August to post him out of the province, citing personal reasons.

He has once again reminded the central government of his desire to be posted out of the province.

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However, his requests have not been entertained so far.

The provincial government, in view of the said request, has forwarded three names for the post of the chief secretary — Babar Hayat Tarar, Ahmed Nawaz and Abdullah Khan Sumbal.

The chief secretary made himself controversial during the PML-N’s brief provincial tenure when he oversaw the controversial oath-taking ceremony of Hamza Shehbaz, a ceremony that was organized at Governor’s House against the incumbent governor’s will.

It was during this PML-N’s government’s brief tenure, with Kamran at the helm of affairs, that state machinery was allegedly used to “suppress PTI protesters”, employing “oppressive measures even against women and children” which included “vandalizing property of private citizens” and “gas shelling PTI protesters” including women and children.

The chief secretary was reached for his comments but to no avail. The CS’s media office also refused to respond to questions regarding Kamran Ali Afzal’s tenure as the chief secretary.

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A Grade-20 officer posted in Punjab, on request of anonymity, said that the CS saw three different government’s tenures, and, by default, he was to bear the brunt of their failures as well.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2022.



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Punjab

Dept turns blind eye to rare birds poaching

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LAHORE:

The hunting of rare species of falcons and quails peaked in the province, due to the negligence of the Punjab wildlife authorities. A large number of falcons and quails were hunted in different districts of the province during the last month.

Punjab wildlife officials said over 100 hunters were arrested and fined over hunting rare birds during the past week. Hunting rare wild birds reached a peak in Punjab due to the inattention of Secretary Forests and Wildlife and Director General Punjab Wildlife. Allegedly, people are secretly hunting rare species of falcons and quails in many areas, sometimes with the connivance of wildlife staff.

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Around 123 hunters were arrested and fined millions of rupees for hunting falcons, wild quails and wild pigeons during the last week, but the number of sport hunters is growing. Most hunting of rare species took place in Salt Range, Sargodha, Rajanpur, Bahawalnagar, Bhakkar, Pakpattan, Okara and Muzaffargarh. According to sources, hunters are slapped with small fines, but fines alone cannot address the rapidly declining numbers of wild birds.

A former director of wildlife department said during September and October, falcons and other migratory birds arrive in Pakistan. He added that falcons are rare and precious birds and their price is determined by the breed, size and health. A female falcon costs more than a male and the price of varies between Rs10,000 and Rs10 million.

He further disclosed that staff only catch the hunter as a formality and fine them a small amount. Falcon hunters have a strong network, which includes poachers, dealers, smugglers and people from the department itself. On the other hand, the officials said that action is being taken across the province against those who hunt wild birds, on the instructions of the secretary of forests and wildlife. If any employee of the department is involved in illegal hunting, action will be taken against them. According to the authorities, poachers can be fined and punished as per the Wildlife Act.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2022.



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Punjab

CCPO Dogar’s position hangs in the balance

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LAHORE:

The government of Punjab, other than a verbal affirmation, has not taken a formal decision regarding the retention of Additional IG (AIG) Ghulam Mehmood Dogar, a grade 21 officer, in his position as the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO).

Earlier this week, the federal government transferred Dogar from the post and asked him to report to the Establishment Division. According to reports, the federal government, led by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), was frustrated with him over the registration of a case under anti-terrorism charges against two of its leaders, Javed Latif and Maryam Aurangzeb.

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Punjab Home Minister Hashim Dogar made the claim before the media.

As Dogar’s transfer orders were reported through the media, Hashim Dogar asked the AIG to continue serving as CCPO pending further orders. Chief Minister Punjab Pervaiz Elahi termed the orders unlawful and refused to comply by them.

The next day, the CM held a meeting with senior officers of Punjab and ordered them to remain at their positions, pending permission from the Government of Punjab.

The CM, in an exclusive meeting with Dogar, reportedly assured him that they will not let him be transferred and had also praised him and his services.

However, to retain his position, the provincial government reportedly had not taken any formal action so far, nor had it sent in writing to the Establishment or Services and General Administration Department Punjab anything in regards to Dogar’s position.

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As per the departmental regulations, being a PSP officer ie a federal government employee, Dogar was mandated to report to the Establishment Division within a week. If he failed to do this, he may be issued a show-cause notice explaining his actions. Failure to respond could lead to a suspension.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2022.



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Punjab

Schools heads to pay for poor results

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LAHORE:

The Punjab School Education Department has decided to take action against the heads of schools showing poor performance in the recently announced matriculation results.

The department has reportedly given the last warning to the headmasters and headmistresses to submit their schools’ results. The chief executive officers (CEO) of all district education authorities have also been instructed to submit the data pertaining to the results.

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According to school education department officials, thousands of students across Punjab showed poor performance in the annual results and the school heads and district education authority CEOs responsible would face action under the Punjab Employees Efficiency, Discipline and Accountability (PEEDA) Act.

On the other hand, CEOs appear to be hesitant to submit the data of performance of schools in their districts to the department.

An official said there was a shortage of around 100,000 schoolteachers in the province, which was the main cause of the poor results.

The officials of the education department said while speaking to The Express Tribune that about 30% of schools in Punjab had shown poor results in the matriculation examinations. They said the department wanted to compile the performance data of the school heads of each district.

“An instruction was sent to the education authority CEOs of all districts of Punjab to submit their data to the department. However, the CEOs ignored the department’s instruction.

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Now the department has issued a last warning to the CEOs concerned in all districts to submit the performance data so that action may be initiated against all headmasters, headmistresses and CEOs whose results are unsatisfactory,” said a senior official of the school education department.

“The department will take strict action against all school heads whose students’ success rate was less than 10%. The action will be taken under the PEEDA Act,” he added. The official said personal hearings would be held to ascertain the reasons of the poor results.

“We asked the CEOs two weeks ago to send us the names of all headmasters whose schools’ result is poor, but they appear to be protecting the educationists who may face action as they did not send us the names,” he said.

A headmaster, Muhammd Farooq, alleged that the provincial government and school education department were trying to cover up their own poor performance by taking action against teachers.

“There is a shortage of around 100,000 schoolteachers in Punjab but we have to continue the academic activities. A large number of schools in the province do not have science teachers. This is affecting the performance of students from poor families as there is a trend of private tuition in most districts and the students are left at the mercy of private academies to pass their exams. But there are thousands of students whose families cannot afford private coaching,” he said.

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He said the teachers could not do much amid the circumstances where staff shortage and in adequate infrastructure, including labs and school buildings are directly affecting the annual examination results. Farooq said the government should resolve these issues before taking action against the headmasters.

Punjab Teachers Union secretary general Rana Liaqat Ali said it was very difficult to show good results amid a shortage of 100,000 teachers.

The school headmasters and the whole teaching community is struggling hard to give a bright future to the students but our genuine issues should be addressed.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2022.



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