Will Pakistani ministers follow PM Khan’s austerity measures

Prime Minister Imran Khan has drastically cut the staff associated with his office to become an example for others to promote austerity and save taxpayers’ money but several of his cabinet ministers are having bloated staff beyond the sanctioned strength determined by law.

The relevant law- FEDERAL MINISTERS AND MINISTERS OF STATE (SALARIES, ALLOWANCES AND PRIVILEGES) ACT, 1975 (as amended on 01.10.2016)- allows a federal minister or minister of state only five-member staff. However, in many cases the cabinet members violate this law by adding more members to their staff.

The sources said that most of these ministers by default got involved in this violation as it has been a practice during past governments for many years in what a source termed “Purana Pakistan”. It is added that in certain cases, the ministers in the past have been getting additional staff by simply getting a nod from the finance ministry but without amending the law.

Section 18 of the law talks about the entitlement of minister/minister of state’s staff. It reads as: “18. Personal staff.- Each Minister, except while on leave, shall be entitled to have one Private Secretary, one Personal Assistant, one Urdu Stenographer or Stenotypist, one Qasid and one Naib Qasid, with such status and conditions as are or may be laid down by the government from time to time.

However, on the ground besides these designated staff members, several ministers are having additional staff members like director to minister, protocol officer, personal staff officer, public relation officer. Because of such additions to the personal staff of the cabinet ministers, not only the sanctioned strength of such staff as permitted by law is violated but new and new designations, not recognised by law, are added to the staff.

Prime Minister’s adviser on media Iftikhar Durrani when contacted said that strength of the staff associated with the ministers depends upon their workload. He said that in the ministries like foreign affairs, finance and information, the ministers have more staff attached with them including directors, personal staff officers etc. Durrani does not see any illegality involved in this.

When asked about the limitations set by the law, he said that the law sets the minimum strength of the staff attached to a minister or minister of state. The additional staff, he explained, is offered to the minister by the respective ministry which creates additional position in consultation with finance and establishment divisions.

Durrani, however, said that a task force led by Dr Ishrat Hussain is presently working on rationalisation of the government’s workforce which will address such issues.

The FEDERAL MINISTERS AND MINISTERS OF STATE (SALARIES, ALLOWANCES AND PRIVILEGES) ACT, 1975 determines the salaries, allowances and privileges of the federal ministers and ministers of state.

Information collected by a staffer of The News from ministers’ offices shows that the extra staff enjoyed by the Minister of Finance Asad Omar includes PSO to Finance Minister Sohail Akhtar and Special Assistant to Finance Minister Qamar Sarwar Abbasi; Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi additional staff includes Director to FM Syed Mustafa Rabbani, PSO to FM Syed Azim Shah and Asstt Director to FM Abdul Bari; Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak’s additional staff includes PSO Major Kamran and senior PS M Ismail; Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood’s additional staff includes Senior PS Shabbir Ahmed, PRO Taimur Khan, APS Syed Shakil Haider; Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has Daniyal Gillani as his director and three protocol officers including Mr Aqeel, Mr Wajahat and Mr Naeem; Law Minister Barrister Farogh Nasim’s additional staff includes PSO Jawad Ahmed and APS Sajid Aziz Qureshi; Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid’s staff includes a Director Muhammad Ishfaq; Minister for National Health Service Amir Kiyani’s additional staff includes SPS Minister Ahmed Hussain Shah and APS to Minister Waqas Alam; Minister for Housing and Works Tariq Bashir Cheema’s extra staff includes Staff Officer; Minister for Information Technology Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui has PRO Sidrah Hussain; Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi has a Director Ayyaz Memon; Minister for Energy and Power Division Umar Ayub Khan has a Protocol Officer Muhammad Ismail and Assistant Protocol Officer Ashraf Qaisar; State Minister for Interior Sheryar Afridi has APS Zafar Iqbal Pirzada and PSO Mansoor Ahmed; Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari has a PRO Khwaja Jawad Ahmed; State Minister for Communications Murad Saeed has an additional PSO Sharaiz Abbas; and State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali M Khan has two Senior PSs Muhammad Asim Khan and Mushtaque Ahmed and a private PS Ziaullah.

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