ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has appointed Shahid Mehmood, an outstanding officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service, as new finance secretary after the retirement of Tariq Bajwa who has reached the age of superannuation.

Mehmood, whose appointment was highly anticipated, had been serving as special finance secretary as well as privatisation secretary after his return from Washington in March this year. In the United States, he worked as senior executive director in the International Monetary Fund.

The Establishment Division has notified Mehmood’s appointment as the federal finance secretary. He will replace Bajwa who would retire on Sunday after reaching the retirement age of 60 years.

Mehmood was the chief negotiator for Pakistan during the process of establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

He has served in the past as additional secretary external finance, special assistant to finance minister, principal secretary to Punjab chief minister, director general of Lahore Development Authority and commercial counsellor in the Embassy of Pakistan in Beijing, China.

Unlike half a dozen other cases where the government has yet to fill the posts, there is a smooth transition in the case of finance secretary.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on Saturday recognised services of Bajwa, both as an ex-officio participant of the ECC and as a civil servant in various capacities including his current role as finance secretary.

Bajwa had also served as the FBR chairman. He was known as a competent and hard taskmaster, belonging to the powerful Pakistan Administrative Services. He earned the reputation of a doer and enterprising person.

After retirement, Bajwa may win an official position.

At present, there are about half a dozen posts in the economic ministries that are vacant due to pressing political engagements of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Statistics Division secretary had retired on May 28, but the premier could not appoint a new permanent secretary.

Instead, the additional charge of the Statistics Division secretary has been given to Tariq Pasha, a grade-22 officer, who is now wearing three caps.

Pasha is the special assistant to finance minister, which is a grade-21 post, one notch lower than his present grade. He is also the Economic Affairs Division secretary. The post of Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) will fall vacant early next month and the government has not yet initiated the process of hiring a new FTO.

After the nomination of Mohammad Zubair as the Sindh governor, the post of Privatisation Commission chairman has also been vacant, which the government has not yet filled.

Similarly, the 66-day extension in the service of Revenue Division secretary and FBR Chairman Dr Mohammad Irshad will end on June 30. The finance minister has not yet moved a summary to appoint a new FBR head.

This time, there is a possibility that the government may bring the FBR chairman from other than the FBR-related civil service. Positions of the State Bank of Pakistan governor and Auditor General of Pakistan have also been vacant for almost two months and the government has given acting charges in both the cases.

The prime minister’s preoccupation with Panama Papers leak matters is said to be the reason behind the delay in filling these posts.

The contract of Chief Statistician and Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa is also going to expire on July 4. However, the government has given an advertisement to fill this important slot.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2017.

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