Liaqat Ali Chatha's resignation raises questions of conscience and controversy

What is the most unpredictable thing in the world? It might be human nature. Human nature, a tapestry woven with threads of light and dark, defies definition. We are capable of breathtaking acts of love and compassion, yet harbor within us the potential for immense cruelty and self-destruction. One moment, we soar with joy and ambition; the next, we sink into despair and doubt. We crave connection and belonging, yet often feel fiercely independent and resist vulnerability. We wrestle with contradictions, driven by reason and emotion, logic and intuition. We yearn for meaning and purpose yet grapple with the vastness and indifference of the universe. This inherent complexity, this fascinating blend of strengths and weaknesses, is what makes us uniquely human, forever a work in progress, forever a captivating mystery to ourselves and others.

I joined the civil services in 2011 as a Provincial Management Service (PMS) officer. As a young PMS officer, my first interaction with seniors was through the PMS Officers Association, which was being run effectively by the then president, Rai Manzoor Nasir, a PMS officer who imbibed among young PMS officers that the posting of District Management Group (DMG) or Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) officers was unconstitutional in the province, especially after the 18th amendment. However, this is not the main topic of my article.

I would often meet Rai Manzoor Nasir, a PMS officer, and Liaqat Ali Chatha, who was also his batchmate. Thus, I would meet Liaqat Ali Chatha on the sidelines of the PMS association. Liaqat Ali Chatha was considered the most sane voice then. He was calculative, manipulative, interest-oriented, and a typical civil servant who would prefer postings, career, and perks and privileges. I also came to know him indirectly. The best way to gauge a civil servant is through his junior colleagues. His juniors, posted with him, would always talk good of him. His horizontal and vertical colleagues were also having a good opinion of him. Mr. Liaqat Ali Chatha was never a troublemaker. He always had functional relations with officers, either junior or senior to him. Furthermore, he was also not in the politics of PMS and PAS.

It is important to inform the readers that there is a clear division between PMS and PAS in the bureaucracy. Both services do not mingle often; they do not sit together, dine together, or even develop relations. Their administrative relations are full of hypocrisy and a marriage of inconvenience. Liaqat Ali Chatha was never a part of it. He had functional relations with both PMS and PAS officers.

Furthermore, as an administrator, he was also successful. He remained the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Gujrat and Sargodha. He had a better reputation as an implementing officer and as a developmental officer. He also remained the Commissioner of Dera Ghazi Khan and Secretary of the Labour Department of Punjab. He always wanted to deliver, as he is reputed like this in the bureaucracy.

When I became the president of the PMS Officers Association of Punjab and then of Pakistan, Liaqat Ali Chatha was always there to support the cause of PMS but in his own way. His promotion to grade 20 was hindered by the PAS lobby in 2019, as the PAS senior lobby always tried to restrict PMS promotions.

One more important thing is that the PAS lobby does not allow any PMS officer to succeed. Therefore, PMS officers rely on politicians to break the nexus of PAS/DMG officers. Therefore, PMS officers have no other option except to lobby politicians and others. So, Liaqat Ali Chatha did the same and was successful in wooing the politicians. He was reputed very close to Hamza Shahbaz Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), then he also came close to Usman Buzdar, and he was also a favorite member of the caretaker setup. Now, it is easily understandable that when you rely on politicians, then you become a bargaining chip for politicians. There is always a mutual interest.

Therefore, there is a nexus between bureaucracy and politicians in Pakistan.

As a president of PMS and a colleague, I would often talk to Liaqat Ali Chatha and discuss matters. He was always kind and forthcoming. His administration was shrewd, cunning, calculative, and solid. However, I never found him to be an ideological, principled, and spiritual personality. He was a mundane and worldly typical civil servant.

Then, his press conference in Rawalpindi also bamboozled me. It is a matter of serious debate whether his act was a planned one or a matter of moral ascendency. He announced his resignation as the Commissioner of Rawalpindi Division, admitting that he did injustice to the people of his division.

He claimed that he was involved in large-scale electoral rigging in the garrison city and division, converting the losers into winners with a margin of 50,000 votes. He said that he was under pressure from social media and overseas Pakistanis and that he even attempted suicide that morning. He apologized to the returning officers of his division and the nation and said that he should be executed at Rawalpindi’s Kachehri Chowk. He also alleged that even today, the election staff are affixing fake stamps on the ballot papers.

His startling revelations raised the political temperature in the country. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rejected his claims, stating that no official of the commission gave him any direction regarding the manipulation of results. The ECP also said that the commissioner of any division is neither a district returning officer, a returning officer, or a presiding officer, nor do they have any direct role in the conduct of an election. The Chief Justice of Pakistan also denied the allegations through a Youtuber. The interim Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi ordered an investigation into the matter. The police first said that he was arrested, but later, a Rawalpindi police spokesperson rejected the claims that the top official had been taken into custody.

Hence, I wonder what made him take such a drastic step. Was he really remorseful for his actions, or was he trying to expose some hidden agenda? Was he acting on his own, or was he following someone else’s orders? Was he telling the truth, or was he lying to create chaos and confusion? These are the questions that need to be answered.

However, importantly, the power of conscience is undeniable.

The writer is a civil servant serving in Punjab and leading society for administrative federalism. He can be reached at

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