ISLAMABAD - Continuing to act in defiant mode, the federal government on Saturday reshuffled a top bureaucrat in Sindh without seeking permission or even intimating the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Only three days ago the poll authority had barred transfers and postings in the province without its permission, with the issuance of local government polls schedule.

The ECP management stands clueless about the replacement of Ejaz Chaudhry with Sajjad Saleem Hotiana as Sindh chief secretary on Saturday. Chaudhry has been appointed as federal secretary of inter-provincial coordination.

Earlier on Thursday, the government had refused to comply with the ECP orders in assisting the commission in the printing of 520 million papers for LG polls. “This shows if the prime minister and his government are not serious at all about the LG elections,” commented a top ECP official, desiring to stay unnamed.

The ECP on Wednesday had barred the government from making transfers and postings of the civil servants without commission’s approval in Punjab and Sindh, following the issuance of LG elections schedule in the two provinces where polls are to be held on December 7 and November 27.

“No transfers/postings of the civil servants shall be made after the issuance of schedule of local government elections without prior approval of the commission till the publication of election results,” one of the six points of the ECP Code of Conduct, incorporated in the LG polls schedules, states.

When contacted, ECP Additional Secretary/Director General (Elections) Syed Sher Afgan said he did not receive any request from the government seeking permission to reshuffle Sindh chief secretary. He expressed ignorance if the commission had permitted the government to make transfers/postings in Sindh, Punjab or Balochistan, the three provinces where LG polls schedules have been issued.

“It’s not in my knowledge if the government sought any such permission or the ECP granted one. The government’s request, if any, may have routed through any other channel but not through me. That I can confirm,” he told this correspondent.

To a query, Sher Afgan said the ECP normally accepts governmental requests to make transfers/postings after the polls schedule issuance in the areas where necessary. To another query, the additional secretary said, the commission would see if the government had sought permission for this reshuffle and if need be, action would be taken accordingly, in the light of constitutional provisions.

Informed sources said the official correspondence based on related requests or intimations to and from the ECP were routed through additional secretary. “There’s no other channel for official correspondence. Had there been any request from the government for ECP permission to reshuffle the chief secretary, it would have been through none other than the additional secretary,” the insiders said. The sources furthered that the imposition of ban on transfers and postings was made part of the Code of Conduct for LG polls on the directions of Acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani. “His directions have been flouted with impunity.”

The prime minister’s spokesman and federal information minister Pervaiz Rashid, when contacted, said he was about to attend a meeting and would get back soon, which did not happen, despite sending of reminders to him.

The electoral insiders say the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments can reshuffle bureaucracy respectively in Islamabad and KP without seeking the ECP approval, since the LG polls schedules have not been issued in the two regions.

On October 31, the ECP had announced to hold LG polls in Balochistan on December 7 and had issued a six-point Code of Conduct, which became effective in Punjab and Sindh with the LG poll schedules issuance in the two provinces on November 6. The same day, the ECP had announced to request PM Nawaz Sharif to personally monitor the ballot papers printing for expediting this process. The next day (Thursday), Finance Minister Ishaq Dar visited the ECP to convey that the Executive did not want to ‘interfere’ in the ECP business.

The ECP Code of Conduct also bars all executive authorities in the federation and in the provinces from using state resources in the LG elections “calculated to influence the elections in favour of a particular candidate or a political party.”

The Code of Conduct prohibits the government functionaries including the prime minister, governor, chief minister, speaker, deputy speaker, federal and provincial ministers and others from visiting the area of any local council to announce any development scheme or to canvass or campaign for any candidate or any political party, after the LG polls schedule issuance.

Earlier, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved appointment of Sajjad Saleem Hotiana as the new Sindh chief secretary and the Establishment Division issued a notification in this regard.

Sajjad Saleem Hotiana has served as the Gilgit-Baltistan chief secretary and the managing director of Printing Corporation of Pakistan. Chaudhry Ejaz who was earlier working on the post has been appointed as federal secretary for the Inter-Provincial Coordination. Azhar Shamim who was working in Academy of Education Planning has been appointed as the managing director of Printing Corporation of Pakistan.