ISLAMABAD: Amid an unprecedented financial crunch, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday appointed seven more special assistants (SAPMs) on pro bono basis, increasing the number of cabinet members to 85.
However, one of the newly-appointed SAPMs, Abid Raza, has reportedly declined to accept the post. The PML-N MNA from Gujrat reportedly told a senior officer at the PM Office that he did not need any such office as he wanted to strive for strengthening the party’s position in the district.
His brother and former PML-N MPA Shabeer Kotla told Dawn Abid Raza had called on PM Sharif a couple of days ago in Islamabad where political and administrative matters relating to Gujrat district were discussed. He told the premier that he did not wish to have any position in the government set-up, Mr Kotla said.
The six others made SAPMs are all members of National Assembly. They are: Rao Muhammad Ajmal, Shaista Pervez Malik, Chaudhry Muhammad Hamid Hameed, Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, Malik Sohail Khan and Moeen Wattoo.
PTI criticises money being ‘squandered’ on cabinet expansion; minister claims special assistants will not avail salary, perks and privileges
Following the PM’s decision, PTI leader Farrukh Habib remarked the government was close to making a century of cabinet members.
He said the government was putting more burden of inflation on the common man on the instructions of the International Monetary Fund, while food staples like flour is selling at Rs160 per kg. He said the hard-earned money of the people was being spent on the cabinet members.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said in a TV programme that the newly-appointed SAPMs will not avail any official perks and privileges. “They [MNAs] were made SAPMs not to gain any political mileage but just to praise them,” he replied when asked what was the motive behind fresh appointments.
The minister claimed that they were made SAPMs on their own desire.
Of the 85 cabinet members, 34 are federal ministers, seven ministers of state, four advisers to the PM and 40 SAPMs.
Besides the long list of federal cabinet members, there are 38 parliamentary secretaries in the National Assembly who answer questions on behalf of the ministers in their absence.
Meanwhile, a source in the government said it had been decided that the federal government will probe alleged misuse of Rs417 billion fund given to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government during the past 10 years.
Mr Sharif expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) and formed a committee to ensure revival of the body’s operations.
The prime minister, while chairing a meeting on the STZA, said the committee would be headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and comprise IT minister and law ministers, PM’s adviser Ahad Cheema, Senator Afnanullah and the Capital Development Authority Chairman.
He instructed the committee to present its recommendations within a week.
He directed the authorities concerned to accelerate the process of privatisation of public sector enterprises which had been recommended by the Privatisation Board.
Presiding over a review meeting to discuss privatisation, the prime minister said transparency must be the priority in the privatisation process, adding that the government encouraged the privatisation of the PSEs.
Waseem Ashraf Butt in Gujrat also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2023