ISLAMABAD: Former PML-Q senator Haroon Akhtar has been appointed Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Revenue.

His appearance at Saturday’s post-budget press conference alongside Finance Minister Ishaq Dar took many people, including lawmakers of the ruling party, by surprise. It was like a thunderbolt for many senior PML-N leaders who were hoping to get cabinet portfolios and were yet to digest the appointment of Marvi Memon as Chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). She will be overseeing distribution in the coming fiscal year of Rs104 billion set aside in the new budget for the programme.

Both Ms Marvi and Mr Akhtar were in the inner sanctum of former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf.

“There is already enough resentment in the party over the appointment of Gen Musharraf’s loyalists to various positions and it will certainly increase with the induction of Mr Akhtar,” one PML-N leader told Dawn.

Take a look: ‘There's a deep rift within PML-N’

According to a party insider, soon after the TV telecast the post-budget presser, many PML-N lawmakers called each other to ask about the exact status of Mr Akhtar sitting next to the finance minister.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Mr Akhtar alongside Senator Dar. To confirm the news, I called an aide to the prime minister who told me about the new appointment made a couple of days ago,” said a senior PML-N leader while sharing with Dawn his astonishment over the new addition to the list of special assistants to the prime minister. He didn’t want to be named because of fear of the ire of the party leadership for talking to media on the matter.

About the distress felt by many of his colleagues within the party, the lawmaker said: “For over six months we have been hearing about the cabinet expansion for which the prime minister had carried out a performance audit of ministers, but in the end we receive news of these behind-the-scene appointments.”

Also read: PML-N lawmakers criticise govt for ignoring agriculture

He said the appointments of PML-Q’s former lawmakers — Riaz Pirzada, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordi­na­tion; Amir Muqam, Advi­ser to the Prime Minster on Gas and Wapda; Marvi Memon, BISP chairperson; and Zahid Hamid, former law minister — had disappointed many senior leaders of the party.

Daniyal Aziz, another former PML-Q legislator, who was also close to Gen Musharraf as virtual head of the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), is nowadays playing a key role in the ruling party’s unannounced powerful propaganda machine. He can be seen not only defending the Sharifs but also taking on their adversaries.

Asked about Mr Akhtar’s appointment, PML-N’s veteran leader and former senator Syed Zafar Ali Shah said: “Unfortunately, another remnant of Gen Musharraf has found his way to the top with due approval of the prime minister.”

Mr Shah is one of the few PML-N leaders who defiantly faced Gen Musharraf when he was at peak of his power.

A senior PML-N office-bearer said that since the two brothers (Humayun Akhtar and Haroon Akhtar) had not been given party tickets in the last general elections, their accommodation was due.

Under the arrangement, Humayun Akhtar, who held the portfolio of trade and commerce in Gen Musharraf’s dispensation, was to contest for an NA seat and Haroon Akhtar was to be made a senator.

“Haroon Akhtar is closer to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who for quite some time was pushing the elder Sharif to make one of the Haroon brothers part of his team in the centre,” a PML-N source privy to the development confided to Dawn.

He claimed that a workaholic Ishaq Dar wasn’t in favour of sharing key the responsibility — revenues — of his ministry with anyone, but was left with no choice when the two Sharifs had made up their mind about Mr Akhtar’s induction.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2015

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