LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Thursday questioned Federal Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh being in the office as unelected member of the cabinet despite losing Senate election.
“In truly democratic countries people voluntarily resign from the public offices if [they are] not elected,” the chief justice observed and added the establishment of the democracy warranted actions, not mere words.
“It seems Mr Shaikh would hold his bag and just depart once the job is done,” he remarked.
The CJ was hearing a petition challenging the appointment of all advisers and special assistants to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Seeks property, tax details of ‘finance minister’
He directed a federal law officer to submit details of the properties and tax paid by the minister.
CJ Khan regretted that the government could not find a competent person (for the job) in the country.
The hearing was adjourned till March 25.
Initially, Mr Shaikh had been working as a de facto finance minister as the prime minister’s adviser on finance. Later, the prime minister exercised his powers under Article 91 of the Constitution and appointed Mr Shaikh as the regular minister for a period of six months. The Constitution allows a prime minister to appoint any unelected person as a federal minister once for six months during the five-year term of the National Assembly.
A lawyer, Nadeem Sarwar, had filed the petition last year, making all the advisers and SAMPs party in it.
He contended that the respondents, being not members of the National Assembly, could not exercise authority and power of the federal government, which was the domain of elected representatives of the people.
He said the appointment of dual national special assistants was also against the national interest and defence of Pakistan.
He pleaded that as per Article 90 of the Constitution the executive authority of the federation should be exercised by the prime minister and federal ministers. He said the cabinet of ministershad been authorised by Article 91(1) and the prime minister was only the head of the cabinet and could not assume power of any federal minister.
He said the appointment of special assistants and advisers and conferring on them the title of state ministers with related perks and privileges is in utter disregard of the constitutional mandate.
The cabinet division, in its reply, had questioned the locus standi of the petitioner to assail the appointments and the maintainability of the petition before the court.
The advisers/SAPMs also submitted their separate but similar replies, saying the Constitution and the rules of business empowered the prime minister to make the impugned appointments.
It was argued the Supreme Court in Zulfi Bukhari’s case and the Islamabad High Court in an identical matter had upheld these powers of the prime minister and authenticated the rules of business.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2021