Shamshad Akhtar refuses to join Imran's cabinet

May have differences over portfolio of special assistant on public-private partnership

Shahbaz Rana October 06, 2019
Dr Shamshad Akhtar. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Former State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor Dr Shamshad Akhtar has refused to join the cabinet of Prime Minister Imran Khan due to her differences over the allocated portfolio of special assistant on public-private partnership.

On July 11, the Cabinet Division had notified Akhtar as the special assistant to the prime minister on public-private partnership - a department that practically does not exist. Despite a lapse of almost three months, she did not join the cabinet.

“I have decided not to join the federal cabinet,” said Akhtar while talking to The Express Tribune on Saturday. She refused to divulge reasons for her decision of not joining the 48-member cabinet that has 20 unelected members.

Akhtar has served in the past as the SBP governor and caretaker federal minister for finance in the last caretaker government formed to hold the 2018 general elections.

A Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf source claimed that the renowned economist wanted a position that matched her stature – to be inducted as an advisor to the PM with the status of a federal minister. Sources further claimed that Akhtar met key government and party figures before a notification was issued for appointing her as the special aide.

The claims, however, were shot down by Akhtar who maintained that she did not ask for a specific portfolio.

Nadeem Afzal Chan, the prime minister’s spokesman, said he did not know the reasons behind Akhtar’s decision not to join the federal cabinet.

Sources said the PM had assigned her a portfolio that practically did not exist. The Public-Private Partnership Authority, which was set up under the 2017 Act, existed only on papers, they added.

The federal planning minister is the chairman of the authority, finance secretary is its deputy chairman and Additional Secretary Budget Tanvir Butt is its chief executive officer and secretary.

Butt did not respond to the question as to why the authority remained dysfunctional. The government has also not been able to appoint two private members on the authority’s board.

Owing to budgetary constraints, the PTI government has decided to spend Rs250 billion under the public-private partnership model in the current fiscal year. But the Public-Private Partnership Authority remains only on papers.

PM Imran wanted the Karachi Green Line project to be taken up by the authority for construction. He twice issued instructions but no progress could be made.

Butt did not reply to the question about hindrances in the way of financing the Karachi Green Line project. In the last parliamentary party meeting of the PTI, it's National Assembly member Malik Nawab Sher Wasir had complained to the prime minister that his instructions did not come out of his office.

On its website, the authority has not shown any project that it has completed since 2017. The work done by the defunct Infrastructure Project Development Facility is shown under the category of completed projects.

After the inclusion of Akhtar, the number of cabinet members had increased to 48. There are 24 federal ministers and four ministers of state. There are also five advisers to the prime minister with the status of a federal minister and 15 special assistants with the status of minister of state, except for Dr Sania Nishtar whose status is that of the federal minister.

Many elected party members are not happy with the growing number of unelected people in the cabinet.

There are certain special assistants who do not have a department. Shahzad Qasim is the special assistant to the prime minister on the coordination of marketing and development of mineral resources with the status of minister of state. Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind is the special assistant to the prime minister on activities pertaining to ministries of water resources, power, and petroleum in Balochistan, according to the Cabinet Division.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2019.

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