ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People's Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and party's co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari have given a go-ahead to Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah for cabinet reshuffle, a senior party leader confided to The Nation.
"The CM will stay. He is not being removed. No minister has been sacked either while portfolios of some ministers have been changed to improve performance. One new minister (Nasir Shah) has been inducted", Senator Rehman Malik told this scribe from Dubai referring to the important party meeting chaired by Zardari and Bilawal.
The Dubai meeting was attended by Faryal Talpur, CM Qaim Ali Shah, Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani, Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza, Senator Rehman Malik, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, Mazoor Wassan, Murad Ali Shah and Mukesh Kumar Chawla among others.
"We have a limited number of MPAs (members of the provincial assembly) in the house and we have to choose (ministers) from them. There was criticism from some quarters about their performances so the leadership has decided to change their portfolios. It will be hard to sack the ministers but new ministers might be inducted", Rehman Malik said.
As a result of the Dubai meeting, Municipality and Urban department was taken from Sharjeel Memon and assigned to Nasir Shah. Sindh Ministry for Education and Literacy was assigned to Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani that was under Nisar Ahmed Khuhro - who was given the information ministry. Works and Services Department was assigned to Sharjeel Memon that was under the supervision of Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani. More changes are likely in the coming days.
Earlier media reports said that Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had decided to reshuffle the cabinet and to get rid of 'corrupt ministers' as Local Government (LG) elections were drawing nearer. It is likely that LG elections will be conducted in phases in Sindh to avoid mismanagement and rigging as was reported in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on May 30.
Rehman Malik said the PPP wants to do well in the upcoming LG elections. "The CM and his team have been asked to make sure the PPP performs well. They have been asked to remain active. The MPAs have also been directed to visit their constituencies regularly", he maintained.
"An impression was given that the PPP had tense relations with the Rangers. This notion has been proven wrong. We have given an extension to the Rangers in Karachi and we have told them that we respect their role and sacrifices. The military is a respected institution and we salute their sacrifices in the war against terrorism," he added.
The last time Zardari had convened such a meeting in Dubai was just before Eid on July 16 where at an Iftar-dinner reception in honour of PPP parliamentarians and ministers, he had directed the Sindh government to immediately convene a session of provincial assembly for an endorsement and assent to grant extension in Rangers' stay in the province. At the reception, the former President had praised the role of the armed forces in Operation Zarb-e-Azb against the militants.
Ahead of the Dubai meeting, changes in top provincial bureaucracy were made by the Sindh government. These changes included the transfer of additional Inspector General Police (IGP) Karachi Ghulam Qadir Thebo and the appointment of Mushtaq Mehar as the city's new police chief. Thebo has been appointed as the Chairman of the Sindh Anti-Corruption Establishment.
Senator Malik said the PPP leadership made it clear that the bureaucratic transfers will not be withdrawn and "transfers will be made on merit". "You can understand some people want transfers according to their will. The leadership has asked the CM to keep merit in mind not likings or disliking", he mentioned.
The chief minister also ordered the removal Karachi Metropolitan Corporation administrator Saqib Soomro, Sindh Building Control Authority Director General Manzoor Qadir and cooperation department secretary Shahzar Shamoon from their posts. Qadir and Shamoon have been abroad since federal agencies started an investigation against them over allegations of corruption.
As part of the shuffle, 10 Deputy Commissioners (DCs) were removed from their posts including Umer Farooq Bullo of Sanghar, Zubair Channa of Dadu, Ahmed Shah of Sujawal, Khuda Dino Shoro of Mithi, Majid Mohsin Panhwar of Jamshoro, Zaman Narejo of Mirpurkhas, Abid Shamim of Shikarpur and Sajad Hyder Tando of Allahyar.
Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah had later rejected the impression that the changes in the provincial bureaucracy had been carried out on the directives of the provincial apex committee - formed under the National Action Plan (NAP). Qaim Shah had also hinted on the occasion that the provincial government would continue its drive against the "inefficient and corrupt officials".
PPP Senator Saeed Ghani told The Nation that the issue of Sindh chief minister's removal was never discussed. "Although I am not too much aware of the details of the meeting but I know the CM will stay", he remarked. Ghazi said the reshuffle in the provincial cabinet will improve efficiency. "The party had been considering this for a while. So we hope this will improve the performance", he commented.
PPP spokesman Farhatullah Baber said that some bureaucrats had been shuffled before the Dubai meeting. "There is no major development as of now. Some portfolios have been changed. The CM is there to lead", he told The Nation. He said the PPP hopes to do well in the LG polls and the leadership was active to mobilise workers in Sindh and Punjab.
On Wednesday night, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari flew back to Karachi with Rehman Malik. He is expected to hold a few meetings in Karachi as the other party leaders prepare his schedule for the much awaited Punjab visit. A possible visit to Islamabad before the Punjab tour is also under consideration.
Sources said that he wants to visit the flood-affected areas but may not be able to do so due to security reasons. "He does not have a helicopter so he may be advised not to visit the flood-hit areas due to security reasons. He might ask some party leaders to visit the areas on his behalf", said a close aide.
He said Asif Ali Zardari has stayed back "for the time being but will return home soon". "No need to worry. All is well between the father and the son. He will come soon. Bilawal will be in Pakistan and Zardari is expected to join when he is free from his engagements", said the source.