New bureaucracy, police head honchos: Two doctors brought in to cure all ills of Punjab

Tariq Butt
Tuesday, Sep 14, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Two doctors, who have nothing to do with the medical profession and specialize in public policy and management, have been assigned the top bureaucratic and police positions in Punjab to cure all the province’s ills.

Kamran Ali Afzal, who has been appointed the chief secretary -- the fifth in the past three years, with every nominee serving an average of nine months in this position-- has done a doctorate in public policy from Australia. Rao Sardar Ali Khan, nominated as the Inspector General Police (IGP), is a PhD in management from Australia, their colleagues informed The News. His six predecessors as IGP since the new government took office, served an average of only six months.

Among bureaucratic circles, both officers are reputed to be honest and upright. The duo has been regarded as a good choice to run Punjab and help improve the governance and performance of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, that is not viewed approvingly by many. Kamran Ali Afzal is said to be a cultured officer. He is a senior officer of the Pakistan administrative service (PAS) and is one of the few civil servants, who always wears the national dress – a sherwani and shalwar kameez. He is an expert on finance and economic issues.

A senior officer, who has closely observed Kamran Ali Afzal, said he is a “square peg in a round hole.” The last time he worked in the Punjab government was in 1999. His last field posting was additional deputy commissioner Sahiwal from 1997-1999.

The official said that Kamran Ali Afzal has no exposure to the provincial administration; his niche is public finance and economic issues at the federal level. The government had removed him as federal finance secretary after a few months. He has been groomed and trained for this role over the last three decades.

The bureaucrat is stated to be polite but firm and has little experience of interaction with the federal and provincial lawmakers. Senior civil servants think it will be interesting to see how he fits into his new quasi-political role. “He has not only authored a book on public policy but in reality, is also very bookish,” one official said.

Rao Sardar Ali Khan is known for playing with a straight bat. His colleagues say he has zero tolerance for any deviant behaviour from subordinates and doesn’t believe in political accommodation in policing matters.

A senior officer who knows the Punjab police and its politics said: “Let’s see how Rao Sardar’s zero tolerance for political interference in policing and politicians’ demands and the habit of leaning on the force in political matters will go down.”

Rao Sardar served as the deputy inspector general (DIG) of police of Sargodha, Lahore and Bahawalpur during the tenure of former Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in 2008-2013. He was the head of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in Punjab, a critically sensitive assignment for any government, during the 2013-2018 tenure of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN).

The official said that Kamran Ali Afzal was former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s favourite officer in the whole of his team from 2013 to 2018. He used to accompany the premier on all important foreign visits and had the responsibility of handling all the sensitive correspondence of the prime minister and even preparing his speeches for national and international events. He joined Nawaz Sharif’s team as a joint secretary but was retained in the prime minister’s office even after his promotion to the rank of additional secretary.

Kamran Ali Afzal, who hails from Mandi Faizabad, popularly known as Dhoka Mandi in Sharqpur Tehsil of Sheikhupura district, belongs to a wealthy family that is engaged in the restaurant and catering business in different cities. Once, Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister also had lunch at one of his restaurants when Kamran Ali Afzal was working in his office.

The official estimated that more than 375 transfers and postings in the senior echelons of the Punjab bureaucracy over the last three years have cost the exchequer over one billion rupees on their relocations. No such phenomenon was noticed in the previous Punjab governments of Shahbaz Sharif and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi. Similarly, no such massive reshuffling has taken place in Sindh, Balochistan and KP during the tenure of the present dispensation.

The government and some other institutions have fallen back on Nawaz Sharif’s elite bureaucratic team in their effort to deliver on its election manifesto promises. This has happened after three years of hit and miss and various changes at all levels.

Incidentally, the PAS officer presently serving as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) chief secretary was a joint secretary in the bureaucratic team of the previous federal government, which had also appointed him the Gilgit-Baltistan chief secretary. Also a close confidant of the former premier in policing matters, Dr Suleman has been the director general of the IB for quite some time. He had headed the KP chapter of the IB from 2013 to 2018. People who knew the working of the PML-N say that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not know any of these officers before their shifting to his office and they were in fact the members of the team of the then all-powerful principal secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad.