Caretaker CM Naqvi ‘Unhappy’ With Punjab Child Protection Bureau’s Performance

Caretaker CM Naqvi ‘Unhappy’ With Punjab Child Protection Bureau’s Performance
LAHORE: Chief Minister Punjab Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi is said to be extremely unhappy with the performance of the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau (CPWB). In a cabinet meeting on late Friday night, it was decided to 'rationalise' the staff of the bureau, The Friday Times (TFT) has learnt.

Sources privy to this development confirmed to TFT that on Thursday night, CM Naqvi during his surprise visit to CPWB’s facility in Gujranwala witnessed that 200 children were sleeping on the floor, and the building was in a dilapidated state. “The caretaker CM was quite surprised and disturbed to see that the child protection bureau, which is already over-staffed, had failed to ensure proper well-being of the children residing at the center,” one of the sources said.

“Khalid, who is incharge of Gujranwala center, is highly incompetent and was recently transferred to Gujranwala after his unsatisfactory performance at other centers,” one of the CPWB officials said.

750 staff members to look after only 1,050 children

Sources confirmed to TFT that in the Punjab child protection and welfare bureau, there are 750 people employed for the care of 1050 children, which clearly shows misuse of government resources as a large sum is used for the salaries of the staff. This is against the practice followed in other institutions, for instance at the mental hospital where on average one paramedic has to look after 10 patients.

“As per the official figure there is one staff member of CPWB to look after 1.4 children on average. Actually, the number of children at CPWB centers across the province is not more than 900-950 children,” one of the officials at CPWB confirmed to TFT.

The official maintained that there are around 400 children in Lahore and 200 children in Gujranwala, whereas in other centers — located in Faisalabad, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Sahiwal, Multan, Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan — there are 50-60 children each.

CPWB chairperson Sarah Ahmad asked for Rs. 250 million funds

Sources confirmed to TFT that Sarah Ahmad had requested for additional funds of Rs. 250 million from the home department which falls directly under the chief minister.

The committee which comprises CM Naqvi and a couple of other ministers, after analysing the request, had rejected the summary asking for additional funds of Rs. 250 million for the bureau.

Current CPWB chairperson appointed nearly 500 people

Sources maintained that CPWB chairperson Sarah Ahmad had appointed more than 500 people in junior grades (from basic pay scale or BPS-7 to BPS-16) on her 'personal liking' and allegedly favoured people who are part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

It is pertinent to mention that she was appointed CPWB chairperson in 2019 during Usman Buzdar’s tenure as chief minister. Since then, she has enjoyed complete support of former chief ministers, be it Usman Buzdar or Chauhdry Parvez Elahi.
Sources maintained that Sarah appointed more than 500 people in lower grades, bypassing merit to accommodate PTI workers

Muhammad Imran Ahmed Khan made Incharge Security after 'relaxing' applicable rules

Sources maintain that when Sarah Ahmad joined CPWB, she brought with her Muhammad Imran Ahmed Khan, who used to work as her personal assistant and later he was made the security incharge of the CPWB chairperson. Sources allege that this was done by "relaxing" the rules of appointment for the post and bypassing merit.

Merit was ‘ignored’ in CPWB appointments

“She appointed more than 500 people without following merit and accommodated people who are close to her or belong to her political party,” one of the sources said.

There are fewer staff of grade BPS-17 and above who had become part of CPWB through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC); they are not more than 100 in total, while other staff hired by Sarah Ahmad were not entirely in line with applicable rules and merit.

Sources affirmed that the caretaker Punjab cabinet has decided to rationalise the staff of Child Protection and Welfare Bureau, keeping in mind the bureau's poor performance.

"We request the CM Punjab to also investigate the misuse of resources during her tenure as CPWB chairperson, and how she accommodated people at her whim, causing millions in losses to the national exchequer," a CPWB official said on condition of anonymity.

CPWB chairperson should be appointed on merit

Sources further demanded that chief minister Punjab must sort it out once and for all that appointment at such a key position of chairperson Child Protection and Welfare Bureau should be made on merit. A person who is aware of problems faced by children and sensitized to such issues must be made the head of this important body, rather than favoured individuals appointed to the position on purely political grounds.

A leading child rights activist said that unfortunately, during the past decade or so appointments, at the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau were entirely on political basis. “Sarah Ahmad was appointed after PTI failed to adjust her or get her elected on the reserved seats for women in National Assembly as well as Punjab Assembly,” he said, adding that she was "accommodate" by being made chairperson of the bureau.

Sources added that even appointment of Nabila Hakim Ali Khan as ombudsperson Punjab was entirely on political basis, and she was only appointed to this post by the PTI government in April 2021 because they failed to accommodate her in the Punjab assembly on reserved seats as well.

Hassaan Niazi also made part of BOG of CPWB in PTI’s tenure

Sources confirmed to TFT that during PTI’s tenure, Advocate Hassaan Niazi who is also the nephew of former premier Imran Khan, was made a member of the Board of Governors (BOG) of the CPWB by the chairperson Sara Ahmad.

“It is strange that Hassaan Niazi was made a member of the board only because he was the nephew of the then prime minister,” sources said.

CM Naqvi urged to call meeting of CPWB board of governors

Talking to TFT, CPWB officials and child rights activists demanded that the chief minister Punjab call a meeting of the CPWB's board of governors. Being the patron-in-chief of the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau, the chief minister is legally obliged to take notice of any illegal appointments and alleged misappropriation of funds at CPWB.

CPWB chairperson rejects all allegations

Speaking to TFT, CPWB chairperson Sarah Ahmad said that the bureau was not an orphanage. "Every year we rescue around 7,000 children who, after rehabilitation, leave CPWB centers and new children join the center in their place".

“The figure of 750 employees is wrong, and our employees are 560,” she claimed. She clarified that she hasn't hired any PTI worker, as there is a complete ban on appointments.

She maintained that she had also told CM Naqvi that it was an old building in Gujranwala which he visited on Thursday. Sarah conceded that the facility was in dilapidated condition and the CPWB did not have funds to improve the condition of the building.

“CM Punjab has been mis-briefed, but I have clarified it,” Sarah Ahmad concluded.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.