By Javed Iqbal
Whenever we try to determine the progress of any province we can’t ignore two factors: the development and performance of its bureaucracy.
When we compare the bureaucracy of Shahbaz Sharif and the Buzdar governments we notice that during the earlier regime officers were frightened. Now the bureaucracy is fearful of the NAB only, even though the anti-graft chairman has assured them that they would not be called to offices or arrested without his permission.
During Shahbaz Sharif epoch a select group of bureaucrats had been assigned multitasks and powers. They included Ahad Khan Cheema, Fawad Hassan Fawad, Tauqeer Shah, Najam Shah and some others.
Today, the team of officers in Punjab mainly comprised of Shahbaz eleven, seems directionless. Though officers are enjoying powers and pennies but with least tasks to accomplish to materialise agenda of change.
In the previous years the Chief Minister office was the hub of the power while Civil Secretariat was a redundant entity.
But in the Buzdar administration the departments are powerful and independent in countless ways.
However, the bureaucracy has been befuddled since the PTI took over in the province as at hand there are more than one power corridors reverse to the PMLN Shahbaz Sharif.
There is a dire want for reforms in the bureaucracy. The government may put into action the Singapore pattern in which no officer may hold a file for more than 7 days. But here there is no time limit to decide the fate of a complaint.
During past couple of days a new tussle has started between the police and civil administration as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has handed over Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) to the home department.
Previously the administrative control of the authority rested with the provincial police establishment since it was established during the Shehbaz Sharif regime.
The Home Department and the police establishment had been at loggerheads to gain control of the PSCA, a multi-billion project.
One reason behind this move is said to be the poor performance of the authority and the increasing crime rate in the metropolitan.
The disbandment of the Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority (PIDA) under the Punjab Irrigation Department by the government is said to be another milestone.
The farming community of the divisions and zones where this authority was established to run the affairs of irrigation channels have welcomed the decision of the government.
They are of the view that with the striking down of PIDA the issues of farmers will be streamlined and then solved once for all and there would be no political interference. They said that the spirit of participatory approach was totally absent as they had been victimizing their political opponents.
Apparently the draft of the bill has been prepared and approved by the cabinet. It will soon be adopted as sources claimed.
The approval of the new local government bill has also given birth to diverse opinions.
One school of thought says that it would strengthen democracy at grass roots level and the other is of the opinion that the local bodies would be given more administrative and monetary powers.
However, the other side opined that the deputy commissioner will be centre of activities of the local governance system. They raised eyebrows on absence of the district-tier in the local government system. Others say in presence of village and tehsil tiers there was no need of this one. They quote Musharaf era local bodies system where divisional tier (Commissioner ) was altogether missing and people called it ideal as MNAs had surrendered their seats to elect as Zila Nazim.
Earlier the DC was a stranger in the system as he had little administrative powers let alone fiscal ones.
Shahbaz Sharif government claims its development works including primarily Metro Bus and Orange Line besides network of roads as the hallmark of its era. Moreover there is a long list of cosmetic projects.
The PTI leadership should give direction and assign tasks to bureaucracy otherwise its agenda to bring change would fail forever.