LAHORE – The negligence of the Punjab government has resulted into the killing of a provincial minister Shuja Khanzada – a retired military colonel who heads the Ministry of Home Affairs for more than 10 months.
Khanzada met several tasks against terrorists and spearheading law enforcing agencies with his unflinching and dedicated command as the minister. With continuous danger to his life, the late minister was a high-valued target of the terrorists as he was very vocal against terrorists and a spokesperson on the national action plan against miscreants in Punjab.
Khanzada returned to the Punjab Assembly three times from 2002 to 2013. He entered the politics after the death of his elders. He joined the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and served as special assistant to the chief minister with a status of minister. He was among those who left the PML-Q before the election 2007. He contested his next election in 2008 as an independent candidate and joined Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League-N and served Punjab as chairman of the CM’s Task Force on Agriculture.
In 2013, Khanzada returned to the legislature third time as a PML-N candidate and was assigned the office of a minister with Ministry of Environment. After the June 17 killings in the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s headquarters at Model Town in Lahore he was given charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Brave on to core, Khanzada fought the 1971 battle against India and served as military attaché in the US with Syeda Abida Hussain as ambassador.
He was an intelligence officer too and served in the Military Intelligence (MI) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) during his tenure in the Pakistan Army. He served as sector commander in Quetta for the intelligence agency and came closer to Nawab Akbar Bugti. Khanzada dealt with the post-Afghan war situation while appointed as the ISI officer in Balochistan.
He was a string between the Punjab government and the armed forced for implementing the national action plan against terrorism and all the coordination between the two was his responsibility. During his tenure as the home minister, Malik Ishaq was killed along with his two sons in an encounter with the law enforcement agencies in Muzaffargarh. After the encounter, some terrorist groups threatened the home minister of dire consequences. Khanzada never gave any attention to threats which he received through telephone.
The Punjab government proved to be incompetent in providing him not so proper security, as no adequate measures were taken for his safety. A report says that he was given few guards for protection and an old vehicle while other ministers have about two dozen cops and new vehicles. It is learnt that the reduction in his security staff was the result of the cold war for powers to control the Police Department.
The Punjab government proved his negligence again when Shuja Khanzada was hit by a suicide bomber and remained under the debris for hours and no rescue work could be done. It is strange that a wall was broken and roof caved in covering about 30 people and the locals initiated rescue work at their own. The administration failed to transport machinery, equipment and the expert on the scene earlier. An important point is transporting the equipment and experts from Rawalpindi or Islamabad on helicopter was a matter of minutes not of hours but Khanzada remained under the rubble for more than five hours.
It is strange that the Punjab government has failed to devise a mechanism to cater to the needs of any such situation despite being having Shahbaz Sharif in the office of the provincial chief executive for seven consecutive years if earlier era is not counted. It is really a shameful act on part of the Punjab administration that having disaster management authority and spending hefty amounts on it, the administration is still unable to deal with such incidents. One point is very clear that the negligence has cost the life of a brave man.