[The News International 20 April, 2019]

ISLAMABAD: In the middle of growing discussion in favour of presidential system, the government has started betting on un-elected advisers and special assistants instead of elected representatives to run state affairs. The latest reshuffle in the federal cabinet shows government’s increasing trust in nominated persons as against ruling party’s MNAs and senators. Interestingly, after these changes the all-important economic ministries have been predominantly captured by those advisers and special assistants, who are not answerable to parliament. Additionally, the Thursday’s cabinet reshuffle only hit the elected ones as none of the unelected advisers and special assistants was sacked or given a new role. While already several un-elected advisers had important assignments as cabinet ministers, the Thursday’s move furthered their strength both in terms of number and role assigned.

In the first reshuffle in the cabinet, MNA Asad Umar was removed from the critically important post of finance minister and was replaced with Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who arrived on Friday from abroad to take the assignment. Hafeez Shaikh has already served as finance ministry’s head duringlast PPP government. Another PTI MNA Sarwar Khan has also been removed from the key Ministry of Petroleum and offered less known portfolio of aviation. This important ministry was given to another un-elected person Nadeem Babar. Nadeem Babar was inducted in the cabinet as special assistant. While changing the information minister, the government again preferred an un-elected ruling party member Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan over MNA from Gujar Khan Fawad Chaudhry. Fawad is now the minister for science and technology, which like aviation is not an an attractive cabinet slot. Yet another person from the private sector – Dr Zafarullah Mirza- is the new choice to lead the health ministry replacing MNA from Rawalpindi Aamir Mehmood Kiani.

The latest changes in the cabinet though added four un-elected advisers and special assistants, no new face from the parliamentary strength of the ruling PTI has been added to the top policy making body of the country. The fresh induction of the unelected advisers and special assistants in the cabinet, is an addition to a long list of such nominees already holding important positions. For example, Abdul Razak Dawood is adviser on commerce; Dr Ishrat Hussain is adviser on institutional reforms and austerity; Muhammad Shehzad Arbab is adviser on establishment; Malik Amin is adviser on climate change; Barrister Shahzad Akbar is special assistant on accountability; Zulfi Bukhari is special assistant on overseas Pakistanis and human resource development; Shahzad Syed Qasim is special assistant on power and M Usman Dar looks after youth affairs. There are now five advisers and 17 special assistants in the cabinet.

As against the presidential system, the cabinet in a parliamentary system mainly comprises elected representatives and members of Parliament. In this system, the prime minister and his cabinet are answerable to Parliament. In the Presidential system, the president and his cabinet are not responsible to the legislature. Although Pakistan has a parliamentary form of government, the style of governance here is more like a mixture of presidential and parliamentary systems. Some circles are questioning the absence of an important person who ought to come to Parliament but he rarely visits it, and is hesitant to have a political dialogue with the opposition.