CDA gets third boss in 24 hours

ISLAMABAD, Oct 2: The city’s top job changed hands three times in 24 hours leaving everyone confused as to what the government was up to.

Syed Tahir Shahbaz is the new chairman of the mighty, though hollow, Capital Development Authority (CDA).

On Monday the prime minister ordered senior officer Javed Iqbal Awan to replace the incumbent Farkhand Iqbal. But on second thought he chose Mr Shahbaz to do that, reassigning Mr Awan to head the National Highway Authority.

As for the angry Mr Farkhand Iqbal, he went to the Islamabad High Court to protest that his removal from the high CDA seat was
‘politically motivated.’

His charge is for the court to adjudicate but it would resound in the country’s politically charged atmosphere. Many were heard speculating that “incompetence or infighting” was behind the episode.

However, the Establishment Division, that processes postings and transfer of government officers, was unruffled by such comments.

“It’s a routine decision,” a senior officer of the division told Dawn. “Please don’t hang controversies to this administrative decision of the federal government.”

Another officer claimed Mr Farkhand Iqbal’s legal petition against his removal made the government change its choice from Mr Awan to Mr Shahbaz.

Yet another officer found it significant that before joining his last positing as additional secretary at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Mr Shahbaz had worked as additional secretary under cabinet division secretary Nargis Sethi this year and
belonged to the fraternity of District Management Group (DMG).

Previously, Mr Shahbaz has served as deputy commissioner of Okara in Punjab and of Shikarpur in Sindh.

Spokesman for the prime minister, Shafqat Jalil, however, blocked the search for any such connections. “I have no comments to offer on this matter,” he said.

Others in the bureaucracy were willing “to think loudly” at least.

“It seems something really went wrong at the Prime Minister’s office. Making quick changes in filling a coveted post like CDA chairman shows weak governance and incompetence on part of the office,” observed one ranking officer, “not clear” about what went wrong.

But he held the top CDA post “of prime political importance”, especially to the PPP. Its vote bank is in the slums and irregular housing settlements, which demands they remain undisturbed by anti-encroachment and other such campaigns by the CDA.

Political interests of any ruling party would weigh on the Capital Development Authority, more so when elections are around,” he said.

So could it be political whims that took the top CDA post away from Mr Awan? It would be hard to know but one official said the poor man was on his way from Lahore to take up his new assignment at CDA but the scenario changed by the time he reached Islamabad.

Meanwhile, a CDA press release said Mr Shahbaz had assumed his charge on Tuesday.

Only the previous day, the prime minister’s media office had been praising Javed Iqbal Awan in announcing his appointment to that post.

“As a first step (towards making Islamabad a model city), the prime minister has decided to appoint a new Chairman of the Capital Development Authority,” it said, adding Mr Awan will select his own team to achieve that.