Simple: the government might retreat on what was an impressive proposal.
Despite an official announcement that the premier would vacate the Prime Minister’s House and move to a smaller residence to observe simplicity, Yousaf Raza Gilani is “changing his mind”.
Sources in PM House told The Express Tribune that the premier is unlikely to leave the premises, after the idea was opposed by a majority of cabinet members and Pakistan Peoples Party parliamentarians.
However, keeping its word to establish an institute of advanced studies at the PM House, the government is now considering to use part of the 63-acre vacant land to build a state-of-the-art institute, they added.
Sources said that cabinet members were of the view that the PM House belongs to the nation and is also a symbol of the nation’s pride; thus, it should not be used for any other purpose.
They added that Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Khursheed Shah raised questions like where the government would entertain visiting heads of states and how ordinary people could be given access to the red zone.
Furthermore, it seems that a move initiated in the name of observing austerity may cost the nation a couple of billions of rupees more.
“The prime minister has also announced to give Rs1 billion to build the institute,” said Senator Sughra Imam of the PPP. However, when contacted, Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh said that the premier was still sticking to the original proposal but added there was no harm in debating other proposals.
Meanwhile, the Senate Standing Committee on Finance also recommended the premier to not vacate the house. It also turned down a proposal by Senator Ilyas Bilour of the Awami National Party that instead of vacating the residence the premier should cut its budget by Rs200 million and allocate it to resolving the energy crisis.
However, Senator Humayun Khan Mandokhel, an independent senator from Balochistan, said the nation should not allow its leaders to live lavish lives at taxpayers’ expense anymore.
“If Germany’s chancellor and the UK’s prime minister can reside in small flats, why can’t Pakistan’s Prime Minister who is leader of a poor nation,” he said.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2012.
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