LAHORE: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has opposed the government’s decision of converting the Prime Minister House into an educational institute, and governor houses into museums and hotels.

“This PM House is not the personal property of Imran Khan. He should convert his own Banigala Mahal into a university. This House is a state asset and belongs to the people of Pakistan and to house all future prime ministers as well. Strongly opposed,” central information secretary Dr Nafisa Shah said in a tweet in response to federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood’s statement on setting up a university at the official residence of the prime minister as well as using other state houses as museums and hotels.

Ms Shah, in another tweet, wondered why Imran Khan was bent on eliminating official spaces available to elected prime ministers and indicated that she was worried about hosting foreign dignitaries during their visits.

Nafisa Shah lashes out at government’s plan to convert state buildings into educational institutions and museums

“This is the first prime minister who is set to obliterate prime ministerial spaces from where he/she operates.”

In a satirical take on the decision, she said: “Why stop at that? Convert the Presidential Palace into another university & prime minister’s secretariat into student halls. Move these offices into the cabinet division.”

She asked if the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) expected future prime ministers to park themselves in Islamabad’s guest houses and host foreign dignitaries in the wedding halls of Rawalpindi.

Ms Shah clarified in another tweet that she’s not against establishing educational institutions.

“I am all for universities & colleges but Islamabad a city of 12 lakh [1.2 million] people has 20 universities & 100 colleges & each of them needs more resources to improve their quality.”

Highlighting that the “PM House is an institution not simply a residence”, she criticised the government for extracting political mileage out of the decision. She said that it was upsetting that the PTI had to resort to such publicity stunts.

The PPP general secretary Farhatullah Khan Babar also used social media to show his disappointment against selectively targeting civilian representatives and turning their official residences into museums.

In a tweet, he said: “Heritage buildings in use of government functionaries turned into museums. Jinnah House in Lahore, bought by Quaid in 1943, is residence of Corps Commander; historic Balahisar in Peshawar houses HQ of Frontier Corps.

Will these be also converted into museums?”

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018