LAHORE - Signs of a growing sense of unease in the political hierarchy are quite visible now. The new system of governance orchestrated by Islamabad has virtually pitted the politicians against the provincial bureaucracy causing a ripple effect on the whole system, background interviews reveal.    

A recent change in the Punjab government’s rules of business has empowered the Punjab Chief Secretary Azam Suleman and Punjab IGP Shoaib Dastagir in their respective domains. Both have been given free hand to post officers of their choice on key positions without any political interference. They also hold sway over other matters of administrative nature. This has been done to ensure good governance in the largest province. 

In this background, the chief minister, the governor, the ministers and the Assembly members-all have ganged up against the bureaucracy which according to them is working without a political oversight in the current scheme of things. Reportedly, they have also taken up this issue with one of the close aides of the Prime Minister who has promised to ally their concerns.

Except for the chief minister, all other stakeholders have starting talking against the new system. While some have openly questioned the new arrangement, others are speaking in whispers.

A recent interview of Punjab Governor Ch Mohammad Sarwar with a noted talk show host of a news channel says it all. The Governor minced no words as he spoke against the indifferent attitude of the Punjab bureaucracy. “They don’t listen to us. We have to ask their relatives and colleagues to get the things done”, he grumbled. 

This is not the kind of talk one usually hears from the otherwise cool-minded governor. He is the kind of politician who would always play down any wrangling in the provincial set up with his “all is well” mantra.    

Surprisingly, we now here that the so-called disgruntled group of PTI MPAs is not working against their government. They are in fact friends of Sardar Usman Buzdar who want to strengthen his hands vis-à-vis bureaucracy. An official statement Thursday also negated all reports of some PTI assembly members forming a forward block in Punjab Assembly. It also said that assembly members of the PTI and PML-Q had complete trust in the leadership of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

Also, until a few days back, an important ally of the government, the PML-Q, was not comfortable with the new system. The reason being that Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is not empowered enough to implement the power-sharing agreement reached between the two coalition partners in August 2018. But government’s spokesperson Mussarat Jamshed Cheema Thursday insisted that Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was the chief executive of the province and using his powers according to the constitution. She also said that Punjab Governor Ch. Muhammad Sarwar was performing his duties according to the constitutional authority.

However, the present model of governance being practiced in Punjab has no room for such a political arrangement of sharing powers between the two allies. In its best possible shape, the said agreement is all about political intervention at least in certain districts where the PML-Q wields political influence.

But now, exceptions have been made in the system to give their share of power to the PML-Q leaders as per the agreement. Senior PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi and Punjab Chief Secretary Azam Suleman met this week to sort out the modalities to execute the power sharing deal. 

In this background, all political stakeholders think that political oversight over bureaucracy is essential for smooth running of the government. Their dwindling influence over local administration especially the matters of thana and Kachehry is one of their main worries in the current set up. The elected politicians are also worried about timely execution of development schemes in their constituencies, something which is not forthcoming supposedly due to shortage of funds.