- Punjab government’s plan to set up a mini secretariat at Multan has been shelved, at least for the time being, owing to strong opposition from the provincial bureaucracy.
The idea behind the proposed initiative was to decentralize functions of some key departments by establishing a mini secretariat at Multan. It had the political motive to counter the demand for creation of a separate province for south Punjab region.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had constituted a 64-member committee, comprising senators, members of the parliament and senior officers some seven months back to put it into practice. Senator Rafique Rajwana, a politician from south Punjab, was appointed as its head. A subcommittee, headed by Hamza Shahbaz, was also formed to assist this body.
Sources in Punjab government said that after a few preliminary meetings, the committee abandoned its work and no further progress could be made on the issue. However, the subcommittee headed by Hamza Shahbaz, who constituted more subcommittees, did some work to address the administrative and financial issues relating to decentralization of power. It also deliberated on creation of separate job quota for the region. .
In its preliminary report, the subcommittee had recommended decentralization and division of powers of some 14 key departments including Health, Education, Police, Agriculture, Board of Revenue, Local Government and others. It also proposed posting of special secretaries of major departments with powers to redress the petty issues like transfers and postings of teaching staff and doctors. But many issues still need to be sorted out in the proposed new set up.
A suggestion about empowering commissioners instead of posting special secretaries was also floated by the bureaucrat members of the committee, but it also remained on paper only.
The obvious reason, the official quoted, for not establishing a Mini-Secretariat at Multan was that senior bureaucrats did not want their powers to be curtailed. They did not like the idea of their reduced jurisdictions in the proposed new arrangement.
It is relevant to mention here that the issue of creation of a new province comprising south Punjab region is no more relevant in the present-day politics.
Interestingly, neither the biggest proponent of the cause of the South Punjab, Pakistan Peoples Party, vigorously raised the issue after the 2013 elections nor the PNL-N which got a resolution passed from the Punjab Assembly, did anything substantial to implement it.
An officer represented in the committee said that PPP’s motive behind the demand for new province was only to raise the issue to grab vote bank in south Punjab. It is a different matter that it badly failed in its plan and later after the elections, the PMLN countered it by forming committees on the subject.
Punjab government spokesman Syed Zaeem Qadri was not available for comments.