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Parliament Watch: Nawaz Sharif’s new spokesperson a man of many talents

Updated November 21, 2014

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The new spokesman for the PM, Dr Mussadiq Malik(R), addressing a press conference in Islamabad.   - APP/file
The new spokesman for the PM, Dr Mussadiq Malik(R), addressing a press conference in Islamabad. - APP/file
A view of the Parliament House, which houses the Senate and the National Assembly. —AFP/file
A view of the Parliament House, which houses the Senate and the National Assembly. —AFP/file

Dr Mussadik Malik is the newly appointed spokesperson for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. But he is still a relic of the past and of quite some value. Most recently, he was in currency in the era of General Pervez Musharraf. That fact does not devalue his worth though. Politicians of experience say he is a man of many talents, belonging to the genre ever in demand; whatever system of governance may be in vogue. Dr Malik also has the charisma to befriend anybody under the sun.

Trained as a health care administrator, Dr Malik first appeared on the national scene when he joined Gen Musharraf’s signature programme, the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), under Mr. Nasim Ashraf, a close confidant of the former military dictator, now being tried for high treason by the Nawaz Sharif government.

And there the versatile development expert pursued the goal of NCHD - to transform the Pakistani youth into a highly competitive work force. But his efforts went awry with the return of democratic civilian rule in the country under the PPP. Today, the NCHD exists in name only.

Surprisingly, Dr Malik not only survived the downfall but has thrived since. “I had nothing to do with the military government,” he told Dawn, explaining that he had joined the NCHD as a volunteer at the request of Mr. Ashraf. “I gave my input to Ashraf, a friend, who then was busy in developing national human development strategy.”

His curriculum vitae states that after graduating in Pharmacy from the Punjab University, he did Ph.D. and M.S. in Healthcare Administration and Policy in the University of Illinois. While there, he, as a post-doctoral fellow he also studied Health Economics and Medical Decision Making.

One of his colleagues wonders how he became an advisor to governments on the critical energy sector when his academic records qualify him best to work in the medical sector.

Dr Malik agrees that Pharmacy was his initial education. But later on went into policy making. “Very few people know I have done MBA and that in my post-doctoral fellowship I focused more on economics and public policy making. Then onwards I worked with major public policy making consulting firms,” he said.

His CV shows that most of his professional career was built in oil-rich Middle Eastern countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain. There, besides teaching, he advised governments on formulating strategies for education, economic transformation, industrial development, labour reforms, employment generation and healthcare.

And all the while he looked for an opportunity to impress policy makers back home. That wish of his was more than fulfilled when he was picked up as minister for water and power by the caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, installed to conduct the 2013 general elections.

According to insiders, former secretary establishment division, Mr. Muhammad Ismail Qureshi, played a key role in the ascendency of Dr Malik in the corridors of power.

Both came closer at the National School of Public Policy (NSPP), where the Mr. Qureshi was sent as Rector by the PPP government after his retirement in 2010, and Dr Malik was a visiting professor.

People close to the good professor say his impressive power point presentations leave not even the shrewdest person untouched. Some may dismiss it as gift of the gab. But a sitting federal secretary testified to Dawn that just one interview with former President Asif Ali Zardari and Dr Malik was chosen to head the ministry of water and power in the caretaker set up.

What shocked though many in the ruling PML-N was Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif choosing him as advisor to rectify the power sector.

Apparently Dr Malik’s flawless expression and presentations charmed the Sharif brothers too. A close aide of Nawaz Sharif told Dawn that Dr Malik was only half-way through his presentation when the prime minister-in-waiting looked decided to keep him in the government.

Another view, however, was that Dr Malik’s Saudi connections worked more in the decision.

A sitting PML-N MNA claimed the prime minister appointed Dr Malik as his spokesman on the recommendation of his daughter Maryam. “The man can sell refrigerators even in snow-bound Antarctica,” the MNA said in a left-handed compliment to Dr Malik’s “extraordinary communication skills”.

However, for Dr Malik, his academic career and diversified areas of work earned him first the position of caretaker minister and then advisor to the prime minister. “For the past many years, I have been teaching NSPP and Staff College, and people know my qualification.”

About his latest assignment of spokesman for the prime minister, Dr Malik thinks his expansive expertise might have caught the attention of the prime minister. “Since shortage of energy and economic development are the areas where the government is concentrating hard, I think my exposure to these sectors got me this new assignment,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2014