By: Naveed Butt & Zaheer Abbasi
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif under the Constitution cannot assign formal or informal charge of his office to a federal minister during his absence from the country.
Well-informed sources in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat informed Business Recorder that the informal charge of running the affairs of the Prime Minister’s office has been handed over to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar during the Prime Minister’s stay in London.
The first daughter, Maryam Nawaz, would reportedly be taken on board on all decisions, sources further contended.
“There is no provision of an acting prime minister in the constitution,” said an official of the national assembly secretariat, dealing with constitutional matters, on condition of anonymity.
“Unlike acting president, there is no provision in the Constitution of acting prime minister and even principal secretary to the prime minister cannot exercise the powers of the prime minister.
“Files requiring the signature of the prime minister for example summaries must be delayed or sent to him for signature even if he is out of the country or in hospital,” the official added.
Sources in the Cabinet Division told Business Recorder that the Finance Minister may have been given explicit instructions by the prime minister to look after political matters but he could not, under the constitution, allow him to take over his official responsibilities.
He further added that any decision taken by the finance minister in matters requiring the Prime Minister’s written consent including those pertaining to other ministries would have no legal or constitutional value.
Sources further revealed that since September 2015, the Prime Minister has not convened a cabinet meeting and the next cabinet meeting can be postponed till the budget approval, which is a requirement, however if past precedence is anything to go by the budget can be approved by the cabinet the day of the budget speech. Or in other words there may not be any need to have a cabinet meeting till June, he added.
Sources in the Finance Ministry, when asked, said that the Prime Minister’s presence would be required late May or early in June during the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) which he chairs.
The four chief ministers and federal and provincial finance and planning and development ministers attend the NEC and under discussion is the development budget and macroeconomic framework for the next fiscal year.
Sources in the Finance Ministry said that usually an NEC meeting takes place a couple of days (in some years just a day) before the cabinet meeting that approves the budget for the next fiscal year before being presented in parliament by Finance Minister.
Former Finance Minister Naveed Qamar confirmed that “there is no provision in the constitution of an acting prime minister” and sarcastically stated that “premiership is not the crown of a king that can be passed on to someone else”.
The Finance Minister reportedly enjoys the Prime Minister’s confidence and he has clearly and unambiguously given him preference over his family members notably his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab and his nephew Humza Shahbaz.
Analysts say that Shahbaz Sharif and Humza Shabaz Sharif’s silence on the issue of the ‘Panama Leaks’ that exposed the elder Sharif’s children’s offshore accounts speaks volumes about the internal affairs of the Sharif family. Tehmani Durrani’s tweets, the spouse of Shahbaz Sharif, on the Sharif’s offshore accounts may have also enraged the elder Sharif.
Source: Business Recorder