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Punjab’s bureaucracy perturbed after passage of privileges bill

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LAHORE: Uncertainty has gripped the bureaucratic circles of Punjab after the provincial assembly unanimously passed the ‘The Provincial Assembly of the Punjab Privileges (Amendment) Bill 2021’, sources told Bol News on Monday.

The bill empowers the assembly to summon and punish an officer whenever and wherever privileges of a member is violated.

A senior bureaucrat from Lahore told Bol News that the Punjab bureaucracy is already terrified of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), anti-corruption department and courts and every day the chief minister’s office also keeps calling them.

“Media raised concerns over the clauses related to journalists and those clauses were later removed, but no one raised their voice for the bureaucracy,” deplored the officer.

“Unfortunately, neither the Provincial Management Services (PMS) Association Punjab nor District Management Group (DMG) Association Punjab raised their voice against the passage of the bill nor have they passed any resolution against it which is strange for us,” lamented a bureaucrat belonging from the Pakistan Administrative Service.

He claimed that this bill passed by PA would have ended at the first court appearance, but no association was able to raise its voice against the bill.

The senior official added that the passage of this bill is currently causing concern in the bureaucracy.

“Officers are worried about how they will stop the parliamentarians if they reach out to them for illegal or unlawful work. By introducing the bill unilaterally, the assembly has shown discrimination against the bureaucracy and it should be stopped,” demanded the officer.

It would have been better if senior bureaucrats from Punjab were also taken on board and their opinion had been taken before the passage of this bill.

Some senior bureaucrats are of the opinion that the bill should have only given recommendation powers to the Privilege Committee of the Punjab Assembly.

“The punitive clause should be changed on the spot. If any officer violates the privilege of a member of the assembly, departmental action should be taken against that officer and a letter should be sent to the chief secretary Punjab so that the way or public dealing of that officer can be rectified,” they demanded while speaking to BOL News.

They added that the concerned officer should not be sent straight to jail for six months.

“This bill is against basic human rights. This bill hurts the self-esteem of one’s class and gives sovereignty to another class. The bill does not specify what punishment will be meted out to a member of the assembly if he or she makes a false complaint,” said a senior bureaucrat from the police service.

He demanded that the bureaucracy’s point of view should also be given weightage in the bill so that no member of the assembly can damage the self-esteem of any officer.

“This bill should be balanced and not one-sided so that it is acceptable to every party,” said the cop.

MPs public back bill

On the other hand, there is an opinion amongst parliamentarians and the general public that this privilege bill is a step in the right direction as with the passage of this bill the all-powerful uncontrolled bureaucracy can be controlled.

“Because these powerful bureaucrats don’t pay heed to general public and do not even listen to the phone calls of the members of the assembly and if they visit the office of any service group, then Sahib Bahadur (bureaucrat) disappears from the office under the pretext of a meeting and the masses are left behind at the stake of junior officers who leave no stone unturned to rob the helpless poor masses,” one of the MPA’s from treasury benches told BOL News.

Sources said that the only way forward for bureaucracy now is to sort out its affairs and all officers must now be people-friendly and give equal time to both office and field.

“But this bill will increase the interference of the members of the assembly in the government/state institutions and the members of the assembly will harass the officers for every legitimate and illegitimate act,” sources added.

“This bill could have been called a balanced bill if it had included a clause that if members of parliament call bureaucrats for any illegal work they will also be punished,” a senior bureaucrat concluded.


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