Despite Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan telling bureaucrats that they need to change their mindsets because “there is no room for ancient practices in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Naya Pakistan”, The Current has learnt details of the harrowing experience of a group of junior bureaucrats who were “subjected to torture” by their boss in Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab.
According to sources, at least four of the said junior bureaucrats — currently serving as assistant commissioners (ACs) in different parts of the district — were subjected to torture by the deputy commissioner (DC) who “robbed” them of their official vehicles on late Saturday night and forced them to walk back to their posts over “poor performance”.
“The ACs included those of Toba Tek Singh, Kamalia, Pir Mahal and Gojra tehsils,” they said and added the junior bureaucrats were ridiculed in front of lower staff of the DC Office as well as that of their own. “Reprimanding your juniors over unsatisfactory performance is one thing but mistreating them, the way it was in this case, is outrageous.”
Speaking to The Current, one of the ACs, on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that they had been subjected to torture as the DC, besides taking away their official vehicles, had also mistreated them by forcing them to stand outside the office as a punishment until around 1 am when they were told to walk back home. “We managed to make arrangements for our commute but three of us were women, and family members of my colleagues believe the mistreatment has scarred their daughters for life.”
“This is not at all acceptable and we want the government to take action but it can cost us our careers,” said the AC, to which sources said that the victims feared calling their boss out or approaching high-ups because their immediate superior, which in this case is the DC, is responsible to evaluate them in the annual confidential report (ACR) that is a performance evaluation of a public servant.
Toba Tek Singh tehsil AC, on the other hand, rejected his own colleagues’ claims. “It was just a routine meeting and nothing happened,” he said. When informed that his colleagues had already confirmed the claims regarding their mistreatment, the AC said “the DC can say anything to her officers”.
“It was a meeting between the DC and her officers and we, under ethics of the service, are bound to obey the orders of our seniors.”
Contrary to Toba Tek Singh AC’s beliefs, several other public servants and locals privy to the development are of the view that the DC “must be transferred for the sake of the people of the district as Eidul Azha and Muharram amid the coronavirus pandemic are around the corner and local authorities under such a supervisor cannot give their best at a sensitive time”.
“There is a difference between running a tight ship and stooping as low as the DC did,” they say, urging Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Usman Buzdar to take action.
Repeated attempts were made to contact Toba Tek Singh DC as she was informed of the claims made by her subordinates but she did not comment.
Attempts were also made to contact Punjab Information Minister Fayazul Hasan Chohan to ask him about the government’s reaction to the incident and progress on its promise of revamping bureaucracy for better governance, but he too was unavailable.
Meanwhile, PTI Toba Tek Singh President Dr Waheed Akbar Chaudhry and local leader as well as Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar’s brother, Chaudhry Muhammad Ramzan, have “appreciated” the DC over her treatment of the ACs.
“People are always complaining about these officers for doing nothing. Whatever the DC has done was the right thing to do and we hope she will continue discharging her duties diligently and without any leniency,” they said in a statement.