Meaningless appointment

Published April 30, 2024

THE PML-N’s policy of ‘family first’ has once again triggered criticism. The party’s latest move in this direction has been to name Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar as the deputy prime minister, which, together with the timing of the appointment, defies all logic. It points to not only confusion within the House of Sharif but also misplaced priorities. For starters, the fact that there is to be a deputy prime minister is itself surprising. The role has no constitutional basis, though it has been previously invoked a few times as a ceremonial title — or to mend bruised egos. The late Nusrat Bhutto was given the title as a symbolic gesture in the late 1980s, while in 2012, the appointment of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to the position was reluctantly agreed to by the PPP after weeks of negotiations with the PML-Q, and with a clear disclaimer that the role had no prime ministerial powers “whatsoever”. The historical insignificance of this role begs the question: what responsibilities will Mr Dar assume? And how will his appointment impact the foreign ministry that he currently leads? It is ironic that after being denied the post of finance minister, Mr Dar will now, in effect, be the finance minister’s boss. In fact, despite being rejected, Mr Dar was still included in key committees, which many saw as an attempt to undermine the incumbent finance minister — a sentiment witnessed during the PDM’s rule when Miftah Ismail held the position.

Officially, Mr Dar’s appointment notification has come from the Prime Minister’s Office, but given the dynamics of the Sharif family, it is evident that it was actually sanctioned by Nawaz Sharif. Not only is Mr Dar a close relative of Mr Sharif’s, he is also his trusted lieutenant. Why Mr Sharif felt the need to extend this generosity ought to be explained. There are far more important issues for the government to focus on than frivolous appointments.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2024

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