Muhammad Khan Bhatti rose from the rank of grade-7 clerk to grade-22 officer, the only provincial civil servant attaining the highest grade
Soon after the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled in favour of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi as chief minister Punjab on Tuesday night, the first appointment he made was of his principal secretary. By then, he had not even taken the oath.
The man named for the slot, Muhammad Khan Bhatti, is a classic story of loyalty, which matters above everything. He rose from the rank of grade-7 clerk to grade-22 officer, the only provincial civil servant attaining the highest grade. Bhatti, the newly-appointed principal secretary, owes his career and the controversies he courted to the Elahi family. One of his nephews, Sajid Bhatti, is the parliamentary leader of the PMLQ in the Punjab Assembly, who had ordered his party MPAs to vote for Elahi when Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the party chief, had issued instructions for the party MPAs not to vote to anyone. Another nephew, Wajid Bhatti who is the brother of Sajid, is co-accused with Chaudhry Moonis Elahi in a money-laundering case. Incidentally, Muhammad Khan Bhatti is also a co-accused in the same case.
Before going into the case details, Bhatti’s meteoric rise merits mention, which dates back to the decade of 90s. Ahmed Khan Bhatti, father of Sajid and Wajid, was working with the Chaudhrys of Gujrat when they helped get his younger brother, Muhammad Khan Bhatti, a grade-7 job in the local government. Pervaiz Elahi was then the minister of local governments (1985-1993). In 1997, he was inducted into the Punjab Assembly under the watch of Speaker Pervaiz Elahi.
He received rapid promotions and became a BS-19 officer within a short span. As the assembly was dissolved following the military coup of Gen Pervez Musharraf and the Chaudhrys joined hands with him, the following years saw him rising again. Bhatti was appointed additional secretary on political affairs of CM Pervaiz Elahi in 2002 only to be promoted later as special secretary to the same CM. A house of 4-kanal was built in GOR-1 Club Road Lahore for him through the special approval of Pervaiz Elahi. It has been in Bhatti’s occupation since 2007.
When the PMLN government was in power (2008-2018), Rana Iqbal, then speaker of Punjab Assembly, dismissed Bhatti from service, but the Lahore High Court reinstated him. He returned to the assembly after Pervaiz Elahi became the speaker in 2018. It was under his watch that Bhatti received further promotion to make a new record. He was made secretary of the provincial assembly and later also promoted to BS-22. Bhatti is probably the only officer of the provincial service who was granted the highest rank. With his latest appointment as PS to CM, he has become the top bureaucrat of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat.
His relations with the Elahi family are not limited to the Punjab Assembly. He had been his de facto political secretary throughout his career. Bhatti’s involvement in financial matters of the Elahi family is in addition and it was documented in an ongoing money-laundering inquiry of the FIA against Moonis Elahi.
In 2007, the Rahim Yar Khan Sugar Mill was jointly set up by a Naib Qasid, Nawaz Bhatti, and a student, Mazhar Abbas. The former held 31 percent shares and the latter 35 percent. The value of capital of the mill increased by Rs720 million in 2008 and the source of funds remained unexplained. The executive director of the proposed business, Makhdoom Omer Sheharyar, the brother of Khusro Bakhtiar, applied for NOC in 2007 for setting up the RYK Sugar Mill and it was immediately approved by CM Pervaiz Elahi. Naib Qasid, Nawaz, and student, Mazhar, disposed of their shares from 2011 to 2014, but the sale and purchase remained unexplained. After passing through different hands, 34 percent shares were acquired by two offshore companies: the Cascade Tek Private Limited and Axe Capital Private Limited which, the FIA alleges, are owned by Moonis. Another 10 percent shares were acquired by Wajid, the nephew of Muhammad Khan Bhatti and brother of PMLQ parliamentary leader Sajid Bhatti, who served as chairman Public Accounts Committee, according to an FIA investigation.
Makhdoom Omer Sheharyar (his brother Khusro was then minister in the Musharraf government) and Tarik Jawaid (his brother-in-law) held around 31 percent shares collectively as of 2020. The FIA suspects proxies were used by the Elahi family to disguise the region and nature of funds used for setting up the mill. Although, the direct role of Muhammad Khan Bhatti has not been mentioned in the FIR but he has been named probably in connection with his nephew, Wajid. Pervaiz Elahi is not mentioned, but the FIR said his role would also be determined.
The sources close to the PMLQ said that no favour had been extended to Muhammad Khan Bhatti as the promotions were granted on merit according to rules and regulations.
ISLAMABAD: Soon after the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled in favour of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi as chief minister Punjab on Tuesday night, the first appointment he made was of his principal secretary....