Lobbying in the ruling party delays appointment of finance secretary

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A disagreement within the ruling PML (N) party has delayed the appointment for the permanent slot of federal finance secretary, reported a national daily. There seems to be a strong lobby against the appointment of Tariq Bajwa despite his strong credentials, according to the sources in the Ministry of Finance.

This, in turn, has led to a delay in the appointment of the new chairman of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

The delays have coincided with the time when the government is preparing for negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which are going to take place later this month.

After the designation of Mohammad Zubair as new Sindh governor, the slot of Privatization Commission (PC) chairman has also become vacant, which needs to be filled before the upcoming IMF talks.

In this regard, names of Dr Miftah Ismail, Chairman of the Board of Investment, Daniyal Aziz, MNA and Ashfaq Tola, a member of the PC board, have been under consideration.

Former finance secretary Dr Waqar Masood retired on January 20 after serving for almost four years as head of the most important federal ministry. FBR Chairman Nisar Muhammad Khan retired on January 18. It was expected that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar would immediately announce the new appointments as the considerations were already underway.

However, instead of appointing a permanent finance secretary, the government has given an interim charge to Dr Shujat Ali, who was serving as Special Finance Secretary, according to a notification. It also gave the look-after charge of FBR chairman to Dr Mohammad Irshad, in addition to his responsibilities of Member Inland Revenue Operations.

Irshad is a Grade-22 officer and has strong credentials for the post of FBR chairman.

Sources said Dar wanted to appoint Bajwa, who is currently serving as Economic Affairs Division (EAD) Secretary, as the new finance secretary. In his place, the name of Shahid Mehmood, Executive Director of the IMF, had been shortlisted for the post of EAD secretary, they said.

There was hope that Bajwa would take charge as finance secretary on January 23. However, a strong Lahore-based lobby of the ruling party is opposing his appointment, the sources confirmed.

 

Before taking charge as the EAD Secretary, Bajwa has served as the FBR chairman. He is known for his dedication and commitment to work, belonging to the powerful Pakistan Administrative Services.

Dar in an honorary lunch ceremony of the recently retired finance secretary and FBR chairman told the participants that he had yet to discuss the names of the new secretary and FBR chairman with the prime minister.

Any further delay may weaken Bajwa’s chances to be appointed as the finance secretary as he is retiring in June this year. In that case, the chances of Mehmood becoming the secretary would be bright, the sources said.

They said the government might confirm Irshad as the FBR chairman. However, names of two other officers of the Inland Revenue Service of the FBR were also under consideration for the post.

There has also been a lag in the promotion of hundreds of Grade-19 and Grade-20 officers to their next grades. This has created a vacuum in various ministries where they will be posted after their elevation.

This has further delayed the calling of the High Powered Board meeting to discuss the cases of promotion from Grade-21 to Grade-22 – the highest pay scale in civil bureaucracy.