Shaikh, Hussain made adviser, special assistant to PM


Following the suspension of 28 members of the parliament and provincial assemblies by the supreme court, the federal government on Monday appointed Dr Hafeez Shaikh as adviser to the prime minister on finance and Dr Asim Hussain as special assistant to the premier on petroleum.
The decision came after the government suffered an unexpected embarrassment when the memberships of Finance Minister Senator Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain were suspended at a time when the former was engaged in talks with the Iranian delegation and the latter was accompanying the prime minister on an official visit to Qatar.
Dr Shaikh was scheduled to address a joint press conference with vice president of Iran’s international affairs in the evening. After his suspension, the press conference was cancelled.
The apex court order had affected at least three federal and one provincial minister, who lost their jobs for the time being due to their election by an incomplete election commission.
The cabinet division also issued notifications in this regard which would take the tally of the advisers to the prime minister to five.
Senior jurist Senator SM Zafar told Pakistan Today that under the constitution, the prime minister could not appoint more than five advisers besides ministers.
Those whose membership has been suspended included three federal ministers – Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain and Minister for Narcotics Control Khuda Bakhsh Khan Rajar, while one Balochistan minister Maulvi Mohammed Sarwar Khan Musakhel is also included in the list.
The major political parties of the country have been equally affected due to the apex court decision as the membership of eight PPP members of assemblies and Senate, seven from the PML-N, four members from the PML-Q, three from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), two independents and two independent members have been suspended.
The list includes three senators, nine members of the national assembly, nine members of the Punjab Assembly, four members of the Sindh Assembly, two members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and one member of the Balochistan Assembly.
Legal and constitutional experts say the ministers were given different portfolios on the basis of their memberships of their respective assemblies or the Senate.
“However, if any lawmaker has lost his seat or his membership is suspended, he/she cannot perform his official duties as a minister,” said Justice (r) Wajihuddin Ahmed.
However, the jurist, who has been a staunch supporter of independent judiciary, criticised the court’s decision and said the court should not set new precedent by giving the legislature or executive a premium on default.
“The court should have rather set aside the election of several MPs by an incomplete election commission. This is not the job of the court to wait for specific legislation by parliament, rather the court has to make decisions on existing laws,” he added.
He said the by-election of 28 members of the parliament and provincial assemblies had not been conducted under the constitution.
“On one had, the government did not complete the election commission under the constitution and it also wanted the court to validate its wrongdoing of holding by-polls under the incomplete election body,” he said. Wajihuddin Ahmed added that political parties should also have not sought validation by the court of an illegal act committed by the government.