ISLAMABAD: In order to avoid a conflict of interest, Finance Minister Asad Umar has turned down a summary that sought relaxation of rules to give pension to Sindh’s former governor Muhammad Zubair, who happens to be the minister’s elder brother.
The summary had been moved during the caretaker setup by the Cabinet Division, said sources in the finance ministry. The former governors are entitled to pension equivalent to 80% of their monthly salary. However, the minimum requirement for getting the pension is that the governor should remain in office for at least two years.
Zubair was appointed in February 2017 by the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government and he opted to honourably resign in August this year after Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) formed the government at the Centre.
He remained Sindh governor for one-and-a-half year, falling short of the minimum requirement of two years. However, based on past precedents, the Cabinet Division moved a summary to the finance ministry to condone the two years condition.
The finance minister, however, turned down the summary while citing conflict of interest as reason. The Cabinet Division secretary was not available for comments.
Umar confirmed to The Express Tribune that he opposed the summary due to a conflict of interest. Umar’s decision may also set an example for other government ministers and political appointees.
The issue of conflict of interest also rose in the first meeting of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) – a body that Prime Minister Imran Khan has set up to seek advice from the private sector.
Sakib Sherani, a member of the EAC, disclosed during the EAC meeting that he ran an economic consultancy firm and cannot remain a member for a longer period. Sherani was also not available for comments.
There are many EAC members who are consultants for foreign donors and are still actively engaged with them. Some of them were also advisers to the last PML-N government at the centre and in Punjab, which also raises the question of conflict of interest.
Umar did not exercise the option of referring the matter to the PM.
Commenting on the development, Zubair said Umar did the right thing under the existing circumstances. The former Sindh governor said he never desired to get the pension and even opposed the summary for relaxation of rules.
During the PML-N tenure, Zubair also served as chairman of the Board of Investment and the Privatisation Commission. He has earned the reputation of a thorough professional and highly competent person.
The governor of a province gets a monthly salary of only Rs80,000. At this rate, Zubair’s pension could have been only Rs64,000 a month.
The remunerations to holders of constitutional positions, including that of president, are not very high. The last PML-N government had decided to revise upward the president’s salary, making it one rupee more than the maximum salary availed by any government servant.
The former governors are not entitled to any post-retirement benefits, although parliament has extended huge monetary benefits to former members of the National Assembly and the Senate. Former parliamentarians are entitled to medical and travel facilities in addition to other benefits. There is an institutional arrangement to take care of former parliamentarians.