ISLAMABAD: Despite a notification empowering the prime minister’s finance adviser to the level of a federal minister, Dr Hafeez Shaikh cannot chair the meeting of the National Finance Commission (NFC), the Ministry of Law clarified in its ruling.
According to sources, the law ministry has given its final ruling over the issue of finance adviser’s powers, saying that he cannot chair the constitutional body “since he is not a minister”.
Earlier, the 9th NFC meeting, scheduled to be held on 29th April 2019, was deferred for an indefinite period since Dr Hafeez Shaikh took charge of the finance ministry after the resignation of Asad Umar on 18th April 2019. Not a single meeting of NFC was held for the last seven months as the “legality issue” with the finance adviser remained unresolved.
“To empower the adviser chair such a constitutional body, the federal government had issued a notification granting Hafeez Shaikh all powers enjoyed by a federal minister,” a finance ministry official informed. “But the same could not satisfy the Law Division.”
He said the law ministry, in its final ruling given a couple of days ago, has made it clear that only holding the power of a minister would not enable him [Shaikh] to chair the NFC meeting and make decisions.
However, the law ministry also informed that the finance adviser could be made an NFC member in consultation with the governors of all four provinces.
As per Article-160 (1) of the Constitution, “The president shall constitute an NFC consisting of federal finance minister, provincial finance ministers and other such persons as may be appointed by the president after consultation with the governors of the provinces.”
According to the finance ministry official, “In case Hafeez Shaikh becomes member of the NFC after approval of four governors, he, being the senior most member in the commission, could chair the meeting.”
He added that the prime minister, being the minister in charge, could later sign the papers related to any decision made in the meeting.
The Ministry of Finance may now consult the governors of four provinces to make Hafeez Shaikh member of NFC in order to resume the commission’s meetings, which are pending since April 29.
According to the official, another way out for the government is to appoint the adviser as a federal minister through a presidential order under Article 91/92 of the Constitution.
“With the cabinet’s approval, the president can appoint the finance minister for six months, subject to the election of the minister. The government can also make him a senator during the same period,” he added.