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PTI names 20-Strong All-Male Cabinet

Precious Little left of GB Budget for Development

Article by: Abbas Khaksar

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party seems to have said goodbye to its much-touted narrative of austerity to accommodate all but one members and allies in the Gilgit-Baltistan government.

The party which recently formed government in GB after the election has formed a record-breaking 20-member cabinet consisting of twelve ministers, two advisors, three special assistants to the Chief Minister, two coordinators, and the Chief Minister.

Added to these are the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Assembly and the total number of public office holders in GB comes to twenty-two. The ruling alliance has a total of twenty-three members in the Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA).

This supersized cabinet has been formed to rule the 1.6 million population of the region, where traditionally a four- to five-member cabinet has been considered adequate.

The Constitution of Pakistan says a cabinet membership may not exceed 11 percent of the total strength of the respective assembly. However, under the Self Governance Ordinance of GB 2009, introduced by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 2009, the size of the GB cabinet was set at nine members, including six ministers and two advisers in addition to the chief minister.

The PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz), which formed its government in 2015, expanded the size of the cabinet to fifteen through the GB Reform Order 2018 to accommodate more party members. The PTI has now bested that record by inducting 20 members in the cabinet – representing 63 percent of the membership of the GBLA.

To accommodate a maximum number of elected members of the assembly the previous ministries were split. A ministry held by a minister of PPP from 2009 to 2014 will now be managed by two ministries and two advisers.

A new ministry of Labour, Industry, and Commerce was created to accommodate an elected member of PTI from Hunza Col (R) Abaidullah Baig.

The revenue function of the Finance Department has been spun off as a Board of Revenue under an adviser to the chief minister.

The Social Welfare, Women Development and Child & Human Right, which was previously created as a separate department to accommodate an adviser was divided into two departments to accommodate two coordinators of the chief minister.

A separate department was created to accommodate a special assistant to the chief minister. Similarly another special assistant was also accommodated by granting him a department of Minerals.

“This is highly unjustified to burden the small budget of the poverty-stricken area by forming such a large cabinet as expanding the administrative set up without any output and performance would only cause a major cut in development budget of GB,” said Shahidullah Baig, former federal secretary while talking to this scribe.

“Besides the expenses on the government team, their perks and packages, the additional salaries and perks of the bureaucrats in the area are also a major drain on the finances of the region which received limited grants from the federal government,” he said.

According to Baig, who hails from GB, the budget is not spent on development, especially in the education and health sector.

Former chief minister Hafeezur Rehman, while talking to this scribe, however, defended the expansion of the cabinet saying that the media has been critical of accommodating some political workers.

“If they perform well there should be no objection to giving portfolios to more people,” said Hafeezur Rehman, who also expanded his cabinet previously, adding that the actual burden on GB’s budget was the unnecessarily large number of bureaucracy.

“The PTI government, while violating set rules, has granted departments to Special Assistants and Coordinators of chief minister,” he added. Hafeez, however, claimed that the constitu- tional obligations of limiting the cabinet to 11 percent of total number of assembly is not applicable in GB.

In previous government there at least 15 departments including Home & Prisons Department, Finance Department, Law and Prosecution Department, Services and General Administration, Information and Cabinet Department, Revenue, Usher and Zakat, Excise and Taxation and Cooperative Department, Food and Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry Department, Forest, Wildlife and Environment Department, Education, Social Welfare and Women Development, Health and Population Welfare Department, Works Department, Local Government, Rural Development and Census Department, Water and Power Department, Tourism, Sports, Culture and Youth Department, Mineral Development, Industries, Commerce & Labour Department and Planning and Development Department.

PTI government has jacked up the total number of departments to 19 by bifurcating the existing departments or adding new ones.

The ministers, advisers and special assistants and coordinators of the government enjoy high salaries, allowances, vehicles, security guards, fuel and many others.

BUDGET OF GB GOVERNMENT

As per official documents available, the government of GB receives a total grant of PKR 32 billion as per the budget of 2020-21 out of which PKR 26.381 billion are earmarked to be spent on employees related to expenses during this financial year leaving only PKR 5.6 billion for development activities.

With the increase in administration and employees related expens- es, the expenditure on education and health sectors (including both development and non-development budget) were continu- ously reducing during the past few years.

The budget for education and social welfare was fixed at PKR 9 billion in 2019-2020 but was reduced to PKR 8.32 billion in the current financial year. Similarly, the budget for the health sector was reduced to PKR 5 billion in 2020-21 from PKR 5.5 billion in the fiscal year 2019-2020.

NO FEMALE MEMBER INCLUDED IN CABINET

Surprisingly the PTI government which granted 22 portfolios to the male dominated assembly has not bothered to give a single post to women members of the assembly despite the selection of four out of six reserved seats of the women in the assembly.

PPP and PML-N got one reserved seat each in the assembly. Both PPP and PML-N in their previous government had included at least one woman member in the cabinet.

Unluckily for the four female candidates who contested in this year’s election, all of them lost the polls again. It was a close call, however, for PTI’s Amina Bibi, who lost with 3,180 votes to independent candidate Abdul Hameed.

In 2009, four women were in the running to be elected in GB. That number fell to three in 2015. This year, again, only four women jumped into the fray.

The women were: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ’s Amina Bibi, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Sadia Danish, Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-F’s Mehnaz Wali, and independent candidate Shahnaz Bhutto, contesting from GBA 20 Ghizer.

1CMKhaled KhursheedLaw & Prosecution
2SpeakerAmjad Zaidi 
3Deputy SpeakerNazir Adv 
4Senior MinisterCol. Obaidullah BaigIndustries, Labour & Commerce
5Senior MinisterRaja Zakria MaqpoonForest, Wildlife & Environment
6MinisterFatehullah KhanP&D, Information
7MinisterJaved ManwraFinance
8MinisterKazim MesimAgriculture
9MinisterWazeer SaleemWorks
10MinisterRaja Nasir AbbasTourism, Sports, Culture & Archeology, Youth Affairs
11MinisterRaja AzamEducation
12MinisterHaji Shah BaigE&T, Zakat & Ushr
13MinisterHaji GulberHealth
14MinisterMushtaq HussainWater and Power
15MinisterHaji Abdul HameedLG & RS
16AdvisorSohail Abbas ShahBoard of Revenue
17AdvisorShams LoneFood
18SACMHaider KhanPopulation Welfare
19SACMMehboobLivestock and Fisheries
20SACMIlyasMinerals
21Coordinator to CMNoshad AlamSocial Welfare
22Coordinator to CMShams-ud-DinWomen Development and Child & Human Rights

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