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Complaints against Task Force on Employment snowball

23 January, 2009

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ISLAMABAD: While the federal cabinet has just decided to reinstate 7,700 sacked employees appointed during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure, the Task Force on Employment — set up by the PPP government — is engaged in a dubious business that may turn out to be a major scandal against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

Although Director-General of the Task Force on Employment Ghulam Qadir Shah Jamote, a close confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari, insists nothing wrong or illegal is being done with regard to appointments, there are growing complaints within the civilian bureaucracy of pressures from him to recruit the people of his choice.

Meanwhile, Task Force Chairman Khalil Ahmad, who has been notified as ambassador at large and is known for his closeness to the president, has reportedly asked Asif Zardari to disassociate himself from the body. Sources revealed Ahmad and Jamote had developed serious differences over the working of the Task Force.

Confirming that Khalil Ahmad might be given a new assignment, Jamote denied having any rift with his estranged boss. But an official closely associated with Ahmad verified the Task Force chairman was extremely unhappy with the working of Jamote, who has reportedly talked to the president about his sour relationship with Ahmad.

An official of the Task Force on Re-employment, created as part of the Establishment Division but put under two political appointees Ahmad and Jamote, alleged lists containing names of favourites were informally issued to different government departments for appointments. But Jamote, repudiating the allegation, challenged government departments to show anything in writing about the so-called lists sent to them by the Task Force or bore his (Jamote) signatures.

A story published in "The News" (a local newspaper) recently exposed the dispatch of a list of 240 names to the Pak PWD by the Task Force even before tests and interviews were conducted for posts, advertised in newspapers.

Filed by Rauf Klasra, the story claimed as many as 7,000 desperate youths — seeking jobs and appearing in written tests being conducted across the country by the PWD — were being fooled by the Task Force on Employment, which dispatched a secret list of 240 handpicked candidates recommended by politicians for appointment at the conclusion of what the report called as “mock exercise.” Though the government denied that any such list was issued, yet The News published all the names and even quoted the number of the official letter.

What The News lately reproduced is said to be the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Described by a source as “non-papers,” the lists of favourites are issued to almost all government departments and agencies for appointments. Quite a few federal secretaries informally confided to this correspondent it would be hard for them to make appointments as proposed by the Task Force because of the fact that the lists included several names that were never reflected in the recruitment process.

It was perhaps due to this dubious role of the Task Force on Employment that the Establishment Division, with which it is associated, kept itself aloof from what the body is doing so that the Division should not be asked about any wrongdoings in the days to come.

Reminded of bureaucrats’ complaints of the illegal appointments sought by the Task Force headed by him, Jamote replied he was there to ensure all appointments were made on merit and in accordance with the regional quotas, as fixed in the Constitution.

Not being allowed to appoint their favourites, the bureaucrats had turned against him, the director-general maintained.Following the creation of the Task Force, Jamote pointed out, more than 5,500 appointments had been made to different federal government departments and agencies.

He denied nominees of politicians were being recruited, but did not refute the charge that MNAs belonging to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party sent to his task force the names of their favourites for appointments.

“You just ask them if their favourites are getting jobs,” he told this correspondent and went on to observe even government MPs were unhappy with him because he was trying to ensure all the appointments were made on merit and in line with regional and provincial quotas.

Denials aside, The News recently published a “confidential” circular, issued by one of the strategic organisations facing pressures for appointments on political grounds. The letter read: “It has been reliably learnt that certain politicians are approaching strategic organisations for provision of jobs to their party loyalists. Entertaining such requests will not only result in lowering of selection standards but will also adversely affect the working environments/efficiency of the strategic organisations.

“Furthermore, this will also politicise the strategic organisations, which is not desirable. It is only the merit-based criteria for induction of manpower which has to date enabled our strategic organisations to continue performing with excellence. Hence, it cannot be compromised,” the communication argued.

The Task Force on Employment was created in compliance with an executive order issued by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who had to face incarceration for making irregular appointments to the National Assembly during his tenure as Lower House speaker. Many wonder whether the prime minister could afford a repeat of what he has already gone through.


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