ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday approved appointment of Punjab Chief Secretary Javed Aslam as his new principal secretary, in a surprise move that ended chances of some senior bureaucrat in the federal bureaucracy to occupy the coveted slot.

The premier also appointed Religious Affairs Secretary Shahid Khan as interior secretary. Shahid replaced Chaudhry Qamaruzzaman who has been made the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman. Qamaruzzaman proceeded on retirement immediately to assume the charge of his new assignment.

The slot of principal secretary to PM fell vacant after the retirement of Nasir Mahmood Khosa who retired last month and was given an important assignment in the World Bank.  Ever since Khosa’s retirement, affairs of the Prime Minister's Office were being run through junior bureaucrats and complaints of red tapism and inordinate delays were on the rise.

Javed Aslam, having a remarkable service record, is considered close to the Punjab chief minister who elevated him to the slot of the chief secretary after formation of the new government.

Officials believe the new assignment will prove a test case for Aslam as junior bureaucrats are said to have made a strong web in the PM Secretariat, the situation having sent alarm bells ringing across the federal bureaucracy.

Shahid, a senior bureaucrat, and the new interior secretary, is considered a hard taskmaster. He streamlined affairs of the Religious Affairs Ministry and, to some extent, ended the rampant corruption, especially in Haj services, being discussed in media for the last few years.

Some legislators and ministers of the ruling party reportedly registered complaints against Shahid as he did not accommodate them, officials said. As the interior secretary, the officials believed, he would team up well with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, also known as a hard taskmaster of the PML-N regime.

According to the notification, Religious Affairs Secretary Shahid Hassan Khan was assigned the new job as interior secretary. Asadullah Faiz, a grade-19 officer, was transferred from KPK to the Ministry of Production as joint secretary while Water and Power Joint Secretary Muhammad Ali Shahzad was assigned a new job in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.