Lahore baboos rob Nisar’s authority on Interior Ministry

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ahmad may have buried the hatchet but his authority is seriously crippled as a Prime Minister’s two blued officers are getting direct verbal ordered implemented in one or more departments.

Sources told Daily Times that the additional secretary is bypassing the interior minister as a matter of routine. For example, the two officials, belonging from Lahore, in the premier’s office – Principal Secretary Javed Aslam and Additional Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad - has been instrumental in reversing the minister’s orders through verbal instructions to NADRA Acting Chairman Imtiaz Tajwar. To keep the voter verification and counting matters clear of bureaucratic influence, the minister had strictly ordered NADRA Data Warehouse director general Syed Muzaffar Hussain to report directly to the Election Commission of Pakistan. He had instructed him to only seek NADRA chairman’s assistance for logistical matters etc.

“In reality, the report prepared by the Data Warehouse department was handed over to the chairman who had shared its findings with the prime minister’s secretariat and then dispatched to the Election Commission of Pakistan,” said a source. Another official, while confirming violation of the minister’s orders, added that the chairman “should not have even seen the report but he has been actively involved in the process due to instruction from the duo in the PM secretariat”.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ahmad is in favor of transparent verification and recounting of votes in the constituencies contested by an opposition party. However, his efforts are being scuttled by bureaucrats commonly referred to as the Lahore Group. Meanwhile, the minister’s a month-and-a-half protest gave them a field day to manipulate the situation to the government’s favor. In another instance, Chaudhry Nisar had instructed sacking of the staff hired during six-month (June 18 to December 18) hiring ban that ended on June 8. The inquiry concluded that 326 persons were hired in violation of the moratorium and merits both.

“Director General Human Resource Sahibzada Naveed Jan was found guilty but the file seems stuck with the acting chairman, who has long overshot his legal term in office,” said a well placed source in the government. “It’s anybody’s guess as to what deal has been struck between the two officials. However, the employees hired during the ban are being denied their salaries without any legal or procedural basis,” a senior official in the interior ministry said. Imtiaz Tajwar, acting chairman of NADRA, neither responded to Daily Times attempts to reach him for his version nor called back on the correspondent’s cell number.

Imtiaz Tajwar, a joint secretary at the ministry of interior, has long exceeded the stipulated 60 days time span as per the ordinance. He was appointed acting chairman on January 10, thus after his 60th day in office, all CNICs or other cards issued or whatever decisions taken stand illegal. “The serious violation can easily become nightmarish for the government if judiciary take a suo moto on the issuance of 50,000 cards everyday with signature of someone who has no legal standing to be there,” says a consultant to the ministry of law.

There is risk of appointment of handpicked person for the coveted slot as has been done in the case of SNGPL chief. Lack of level-playing field for the top slot in NADRA has chronically damaged the authority’s credibility, given the previous chairmen being handpicked by the respective rulers. The discrepancy seems to be continuing if the government does not call eight shortlisted candidates for final interview. About 14-year old organization does have competent professionals which should be considered for the slot owing to their expertise, dedication and fulfilling most of the criteria stipulated in the call for applications. 

In mid-March, the interior minister had categorically stated that the NADRA chairman will be appointed within a fortnight. Sources believe that the Imtiaz Tajwar may continue to head the authority till the election related controversy is not dealt with. The sources confirmed that over 100 data entry operators headed by three officials are working in the base of next-door COMSATS building to tamper with bogus ballots. “Their task is to make the ballot papers unreadable by imposing a fresh thumb impression atop the previous one,” a source explained. He said the project is being personally supervised by Imtiaz Tajwar and additional secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad.

The interior minister can do little here, according to source; Chaudhry Nisar has been at odds with Interior Secretary Shahid Hussain. Despite his clout, the seasoned politician has so far failed to get him replaced with a bureaucrat of his choice. The habit of bypassing the minister adopted during his protest continues in other arms of the division. 

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