Tarin appointed PM’s aide on finance

Tarin had been appointed as an unelected finance minister on April 17 and his constitutional tenure ended


Shahbaz Rana October 19, 2021
Finance Minister Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin gestures during a press conference. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The government on Monday appointed Shaukat Tarin as adviser to prime minister on finance, which would also now require reconstitution of four committees including three cabinet bodies, besides adding another layer in the decision-making process of the finance ministry.

Tarin was notified as the finance and revenue adviser after Prime Minister Imran Khan could not fulfil his promise of getting him elected as a senator before the expiry of his six-month ad-hoc constitutional ministerial term.

The president, on the advice of the premier, has been pleased to appoint, with immediate effect, Shaukat Fayyaz Ahmed Tarin as adviser to the prime minister on finance and revenue, with the status of federal minister, according to a Cabinet Division notification.

However, Tarin’s status as federal minister will be symbolic, as he cannot exercise the powers of a minister due to a judgment issued by the Islamabad High Court. In December last year, the court ruled that unelected advisers and special assistants to the prime minister cannot exercise executive or administrative powers in the functioning of the government and only elected representatives chosen by the people had the privilege to run the affairs of ministries.

After Tarin’s notification as adviser, the four committees have become headless. Sources said that the government is in the process of reconstituting the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC) – the most important cabinet body, the Cabinet Committee on State-owned Enterprises, the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation and the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council.

Two separate summaries are being moved by the Cabinet Division. One summary will be meant to appoint chairpersons of these committees and the second to give additional charge of the portfolio of the finance and revenue minister, the sources said. However, it will be up to the prime minister whether he would retain the finance minister portfolio or designate any cabinet member, as the finance minister.

The sources said that the finance ministry’s routine work would also get affected due to an August 2016 judgment by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The tax laws have also clearly defined the roles of the cabinet and the federal government. On matters where the authority of a decision rests with the finance minister such summaries will have to be sent to either the prime minister or any minister that is designated as the finance minister.

Tarin had been appointed as an unelected finance minister on April 17 and his constitutional tenure ended at the weekend.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had stated that Tarin will be elected as senator from the Punjab seat of Ishaq Dar that will be vacated by October 13. The government could not get Dar’s seat vacant despite making an attempt and promulgating a Presidential Ordinance.

Fawad was not available for comments.

The sources said that now the government was planning on getting Tarin elected from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). Before the announcement of getting Tarin elected from Punjab, the government had planned to get him elected from K-P but it could not find a seat for him.

The sources said that Tarin’s vote is registered in Punjab and in case the battle is fought in K-P, he may have to change his address on the Computerised National Identity Card, find a temporary residence there and also get electricity bills of the residence.

The ambiguity remains about Pakistan’s future finance minister amid failure of Pakistan-IMF October 4-15 talks for the sixth review of Pakistan’s economy. Under the revised schedule, the sixth review talks had to be concluded by June this year for the release of the $1 billion loan tranche, according to the IMF documents.

The IMF report showed that the seventh review had to begin from September 3, 2021 but the government is not able to complete even the sixth review till date.

On Sunday, the Finance Division said that negotiations between Pakistan and the IMF have been moving forward in Washington positively. It said that no timeframe was set at any stage for the conclusion of talks.

However, the IMF mission team that had arrived in Doha before the start of sixth review talks has returned to Washington, sources told The Express Tribune.

Resident Representative of IMF Teresa Daban did not directly reply to the question about the IMF team returning to Washington but said both the sides “remain engaged”. Due to time zone difference, the IMF team had been stationed in Doha for smooth functioning of the programme talks.

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