LAHORE  - Senior officers start lobbying for the slot of Punjab chief secretary as incumbent CS Capt (retd) Naveed Akram Cheema is reaching the age of superannuation in January next year.

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Though the posting of the provincial CS is the federal government’s matter but subject to the consent of the chief minister of the relevant province.

While, much time has already been devoted on the guessing game for the next chief secretary, the practice will continue till the federal government approves a name for the top provincial slot. If whispers are to be believed, senior bureaucrat Nadeem Hasan Asif may be the front runner, while former Home Secretary Punjab and incumbent Interior Secretary Shahid Khan, former Punjab ACS Sohail Amir Mirza and some others but having good relations with the regime may be the runners up, officers privy to the situation said.

Both Asif and Sohail Amir are known as the soft-spoken among their colleagues.

After experience of Javed Mehmood as the CS who currently holds Ombudsman office after having premature retirement from service, the close aides of the Sharifs reportedly favoured posting of a compliant officer as the CS instead of the one who goes by the book. Others who tried to deliver independently like Javed Aslam had to face authority of another bureaucrat sitting in the CM office, who is enjoying status of an OSD after his name floated in a tragic incident.

The posting of Capt (retd) Naveed Akram Cheema was a classic example that astounded many in the race for the top administrative seat of the biggest province. Cheema had the least experience of important posts like ACS, Secretaries to the Home, S&GAD, Finance, Health, P&D and other important departments except high experience of the PCB. Besides playing a transitional role as the CS, Cheema failed to get his orders implemented even among his subordinates. His orders to the secretaries to conduct open courts could never materialise owing to his weak grasp on administrative affairs of the province.

When this reporter talked to senior officers, they were on the same page that there was only one criterion “A grade 22 DMG officer with good PR”. High experience to handle the ongoing anti-government moves would be an additional qualification, they said. However, the training reports at different tiers of service, performance evaluation, leadership qualities and varied experience were duly judged before elevating the officers to BS-22, they corroborated.

To be promoted to the head of the provincial administration, does any criterion really matters? Responding such queries the officers said, “Besides their track record, cadres and grade, nothing matters”. The same standard may well fit while posting of a top cop or head of any other institution that gave birth to an assumption that there was least such norm, they held.

Citing an example, they said, an officer who was kicked out of his post as the Punjab forests secretary by former chief secretary Javed Mehmood for negligence in making sanitation arrangements at Jallo Park, was made as the Chief Secretary later.

With the rise in political temperature of the country, the close aides of the CM might have thought to post a person with high administrative experience to handle the affairs of the province. The same exercise was rehearsed on arrival of Nawaz Sharif as premier who picked up officers from Punjab like Nasir Khosa then Punjab Chief Secretary, his successor CS Javed Aslam, Punjab Home Secretary Shahid Khan, Information Secretary Mohayyuddin Ahmad Wani, Finance Secretary Tariq Bajwa were also relieved from the province to serve in the federal capital.

Nadeem Hassan Asif was one of the 23 CSPs who were promoted by the PMLN government back in December 2013 among other prominent officers like former Finance Secretary Punjab and FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwah, former Home Secretary Punjab and Secretary Interior Shahid Khan. Asif joined the DMG in 1981 and is scheduled to retire in 2018. Known as submissive and the one who avoids confrontation with political bosses, had a vast experience of serving in Punjab on different posts like Secretary Home; Principal Secretary to CM Punjab, Vice Chairman Punjab Board of Investment & Trade (PBIT), Chairperson TEVTA, Chairman CDA, Secretary Establishment has been considered as the most favourite candidate. Shahid Khan, though a hard bureaucrat, may be a darling as he enjoys support of the Federal Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan.

A senior secretary serving in Punjab said that after Javed Mehmood and Nasir Khosa, the province lacked a seasoned bureaucrat who could fully control government reducing political interference in the official business. Nasir Mehmood Khosa, a 6th Common officer had served in various capacities in Punjab like Principal Secretary to former Governor Khalid Maqbool, Additional Secretary Finance, Commissioner Multan Division and Deputy Commissioner Lahore from 1997 to 1999, Additional Secretary at PM Secretariat Islamabad, Joint Secretary at Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. He also served as CS Balochistan besides serving Balochistan in different capacities from 1979 to 1991. Khosa had been part of Board of Directors of the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited, enjoyed fellowship in Public Administration from Hubert H Humphrey, the US. And above all Khosa had good relations with the Sharifs that strengthened his position for the CS in Punjab.

Another senior officer conditioning anonymity said that Javed Aslam, having a remarkable service record, was also considered close to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who elevated him to the slot of the chief secretary after formation of the new government in Punjab. Aslam had to surrender after reportedly undue interference of the Secretary to the CM Dr Tauqeer Shah in the administrative affairs of the province. Now, as Dr Shah is an OSD, senior officers like to serve in Punjab on top position contrary to the time when interruption was common in the official matters, the officer held.

He said that the offering of coveted slots to the retired Chief Secretaries had also forced them to avoid confrontation as CS in the province. He said that Nasir Mehmood Khosa was gifted with executive director at the World Bank in Washington replacing Raja Azeemul Haq, son-in-law of former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. Javed Mehmood, former CS, was also posted as Ombudsman Punjab after his retirement. The same trend if continued in future may further force the top boss compromise on rules of business and avoid confrontation to thwart undue political interference.