GILGIT: A letter allegedly written by secretaries serving in the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government against a statement by Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman has been making the rounds in the local media and online.
The unsigned letter was written by “All ‘down’ officers” and titled, “Vilification of federal officers on GBLA floor”.
The vernacular word for ‘down’ may refer to down-country – the provinces – but without proper context, it can also mean lower class.
The letter voiced serious reservations over a statement CM Rehman allegedly made on the floor of G-B Legislative Assembly (GBLA) on December 16 regarding foreign tours.
“The statement has hit very close to the heart of every officer and has generated a very adverse response from each and every officer down the ladder,” read the letter without specifying what exactly the chief minister said.
The letter further claimed that the statement was confirmed by a parliamentary secretary, the daily secret report (DSR), and other unidentified official.
While the letter didn’t quote the chief minister, The Express Tribune made an attempt to find out what the chief minister may have said to offend secretaries who serve in G-B but hail from other parts of the country.
“I think the CM was responding to opposition leader Shah Baig’s question on why officers from ‘lower parts of the country’ don’t sit in their offices and instead often go on foreign tours, for which they claim various allowances,” said an official who requested anonymity.
“The CM responded by saying that in future, local officers will be given priority for foreign tours so that they could get exposure and serve G-B.”
Where there’s smoke
While the letter was unsigned, the Chief Minister’s Secretariat issued a press release the next day, indirectly admitting its authenticity.
“We appreciated the good work done by federal secretaries in G-B,” the statement read. “There is no discrimination between local and federal secretaries, nor will we allow it,” read the statement issued in the last week of December.
It further said that the CM was only referring to capacity-building for local secretaries through foreign visits, which was misconstrued.
The chief minister secretariat was forced to issue another statement on Sunday to deny differences between the chief minister and secretaries after the issue heated up on social media and in the local Urdu press G-B.
The letter in question drew a parallel between foreign visits availed by local secretaries and those from ‘down’. According to it, 80 per cent of the share of foreign visits was availed by local officials as compared to those from ‘down’. It also mentioned that an official was denied fully-funded foreign training.
The letter particularly drew a comparison between what G-B receives in terms of its annual budget and wheat subsidy, and the meagre economic contribution of the state, which caused more anger in the region.
“This was the point that irritated locals officers who reacted in a grand meeting chaired by the chief secretary,” said another official privy to the developments.
“The secretaries disowned the letter during the meeting.”
But privately at least one ‘down’ officer registered a protest against the ‘vilification’ with a lawmaker close to chief minister, said the official.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2017.