The ruling PPP and their coalition allies, the PML-Q have agreed to begin using the power of the federal government to begin wooing back PML-Q dissenters in the Punjab Assembly.
Both parties have agreed to appoint Mirza GM Sikandar, a retired civil servant, to serve as “liaison” between the federal government and PML-Q leaders in Punjab, sources told The Express Tribune.
A cell has been established at the State Guest House in Lahore, aimed at facilitating Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) worker grievances which come under the purview of the federal government.
The move is aimed at bolstering support for the coalition, particularly for the PML-Q, by utilising the resources of the federal government to help provincial politicians improve their popularity in Punjab, currently governed by the rival Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).
Sources say that coalition leaders have also tasked Sikander, a former member of the powerful district management group of the civil service, to lure back some of the 46 members of the 81-member PML-Q caucus in the Punjab Assembly who have broken away from the party leadership and formed the “Likeminded group” aligned with the PML-N. Presumably, the potential of federal favours is expected to help sweeten the deal for the PML-Q dissenters.
Sikander reportedly has vast experience working with provincial legislators and has been instrumental maintaining the unity of political blocs in the provincial legislature.
According to sources familiar with the matter, federal government officials “including the cabinet secretary, and the establishment division secretary (the two most senior civil servants in the country)” have been issued verbal orders, informing them of Sikandar’s appointment and asking them to accommodate his requests.
Controversially, Sikander has been asked to retain his position as a member of the Federal Service Tribunal, an internal authority that adjudicates disciplinary matters within the civil service, which would be a violation of the Federal Services Tribunal Act of 1973, which prohibits an FST member serving in any other capacity. Sikander has been serving on the FST since October 2009. His term is set to expire in October 2012.
Sikandar has served with two Punjab chief ministers, Mian Manzoor Ahmad Watto and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, and is well versed in Punjab politics. He was instrumental in helping these two chief ministers govern from Lahore and is said to have strong working relationships with most PML-Q legislators, including those currently part of the “Likeminded group”.
From his base at the State Guest House, Sikandar has been tasked to serve the needs of only PML-Q legislators who are authorised by PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to receive federal assistance, strengthening Elahi’s hand in wooing back PML-Q dissenters.
Sources say that Sikandar has already been approached by several PML-Q Likeminded group members. Among the tasks he is likely to accommodate include the transfer and postings of federal government officials, a key means by which politicians exert influence over the civil service.
However, Sikander himself told The Express Tribune that, while Elahi has indicated his desire to appoint him, he has not formally been charged with the additional responsibility yet.
PML-Q leader Kamil Ali Agha concurred with Sikandar’s account, saying that the decision has yet to materialise.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2011.
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