Punjab under Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has turned into a province with one-man rule. Instead of strengthening the institutions on which democracy depends, the peculiar style of governance is in fact weakening them. The Cabinet system is the foremost casualty. With a hyperactive chief minister, there is no teamwork which is needed in democracy. The Cabinet has been intentionally kept incomplete and little interest has been displayed in holding its meetings. Despite being in office for more than a year the chief minister has not felt the need to appoint ministers to run the key education and health ministries that need whole time attention. It was decided at the beginning of the tenure to hold Cabinet meetings twice a month. Not even a dozen meetings have been held during the last thirteen months. Mian Shahbaz Sharif prefers to rule the province directly through chosen civil servants. He interacts with the secretaries of various ministries who often submit summaries to him bypassing the ministers concerned. It is not possible to run the province efficiently without a dedicated, professional and apolitical bureaucracy. Three massive transfers of civil servants, often referred to as bureaucratic Tsunamis, have taken place since the formation of the present government. These have had a demoralising impact on the officers cadre. There was an overhaul of the administrative structure from top to bottom soon after the government assumed office in March 2008. This was reversed when the Governor's Rule was established on February 25. Subsequently, on being restored on March 31, Mian Shahbaz ordered another big purge. While mass transfers of government officers have taken place at the centre and other provinces also, a similar exercise in Punjab belies the claims of better governance in the province. As was the case under the Q-League administration, the idea behind the transfers was to place compliant officers willing to carry out the top boss' orders without any question. Anybody considered to be capable of demurring in matters of policy making was shunted out. What was required was loyalty rather than competence. Forgotten was the advice that Mr Jinnah gave way back in March 1948 while addressing bureaucrats in Chittagong: "You are not concerned with this political (party) or that political party. That is not your business....The government in power for the time being must also realise and understand that you are not to be used for this or that party." Forgotten were the views he expressed while speaking to government servants in April 1948 in Peshawar: "....I wish also to take the opportunity of impressing upon the leaders and politicians that if they ever try to interfere with you and bring political pressure to bring upon you...they are doing nothing but disservice to Pakistan." Forgotten was also the provisions of the Charter of Democracy where the PPP and PML-N guaranteed, among other things "a neutral civil service, rule of law and merit." A lot of public money has been spent on over sixty odd Task Forces created by the chief minister to deal with almost all matters under the sun. While the chairmen of the Task Forces roam about in cars provided by the government and have offices and telephones, no evaluation of their performance has yet been conducted. The government's expenditure is not under control. It has doubled the salaries of the police force, and considerably raised the pay scales of the lower judiciary. The CM has promised to gift a modern hospital costing Rs one billion to Balochistan. Few would disagree that the pay scales of the lower judiciary and police force need to be revised or object to lending a helping hand to Balochistan. But for this the Punjab government has first to bring down its unnecessary expenditures and increase its revenues. What it is doing instead is increasing borrowings from the State Bank. The debt thus incurred has increased manifold compared to what it was when the government took over from the caretakers. The unending police encounters are yet another blot on the style of governance. Instead of improving the police performance, it is encouraging some of the highly negative tendencies in the force. According to the provincial police's own figures, 66 alleged criminals were killed in 2008 in 42 police encounters in Lahore alone. Almost 75 percent of these killings took place while the province was under the current administration's rule. One hopes that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's administration is not attempting to match his previous achievements on this score. During his earlier stint in power between 1997 and 1999, more than 850 suspected criminals were killed in what were widely described as extra-judicial killings.