ISLAMABAD - Taking exception to the presence of ‘partisan’ babus in Sindh including Chief Secretary Raja Abbas, the electoral body has directed the provincial government to remove 65 senior officials of the province’s administrative machinery from their present posts and report to the election commission within a week.

According to a notification issued on Thursday, the commission has recently received a number of complaints alleging that several officials in the Sindh administration are partisan and favouring former ruling parties.

The 65 officers against whom specific complaints have been received are serving as assistant commissioners, deputy commissioners, district education officers, deputy superintendents of police, senior superintendents of police, deputy inspector generals, executive district officers, medical superintendents, additional secretaries and secretaries of different provincial departments.

When approached by phone, Chief Secretary Raja Abbas, who is himself on the list, refused to comment on the issue and disconnected the call.

The ECP notification said, “It has come to the knowledge of the commission that no transfers have been made in the province of Sindh in pursuance of the aforementioned direction and nor has the commission received intimation with reasons that the same is not necessary.”

“It is the duty of the commission to ensure that there is a level playing field for all contesting candidates so that free and fair elections can be held as mandated under Article 218” of the constitution. “Moreover, caretaker governments should endeavour to ensure that they not only act as neutral, but are also seen to be neutral,” the notification added.

“The Government of Sindh is directed to (i) make overall compliance of the commission’s directive dated April 2, 2013, and (ii) specifically, transfer the individuals mentioned and replace them with officers who will inspire confidence of all stakeholders on an urgent basis. Compliance may be intimated to the secretary of the commission within seven days hereof,” it said.

On April 2, the ECP had directed reshuffling the federal and provincial secretaries across the country ahead of the general elections. A notification issued then had said that all federal and provincial secretaries needed to be transferred barring such cases where the caretaker government considered a federal or provincial secretary needed not to be transferred. However, it said, all such cases needed to be intimated to the election commission.

Showing compliance with the ECP directives, the Punjab’s caretaker government has made a large-scale reshuffle in its administrative machinery while partial reshuffle has been followed in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

At the federal level, Islamabad Inspector General Police (IGP) Bani Amin Khan is alleged to have close connections with the former ruling elites but he is yet to be replaced despite the interior minister’s announcement to send him packing.

Earlier this month, the ECP had got appointed the Planning Commission Secretary Javed Iqbal as Punjab Chief Secretary after Education and Training Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhry had refused to accept this responsibility.