Who is Muhammad Khan Bhatti?

LAHORE: Soon after Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was declared Punjab Chief Minister by the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan, the newly appointed CM has started to reshuffle the bureaucracy of the province.

The Punjab government has made important transfers including the Chief Secretary in which Muhammad Khan Bhatti was appointed as Principal Secretary to Punjab CM.

Before this, Muhammad Khan Bhatti was working as Secretary Punjab Assembly.

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 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. Muhammad Khan Bhatti is also a co-accused in the same case.

Ahmed Khan Bhatti, the 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.

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. 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.

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