ISLAMABAD: In disregard of its own policy and under intense pressure from parliamentarians, the Pakistan Muslim League-N government is considering reappointing six trade officers who have been recalled after eight foreign missions were closed down.
The decision to close down the missions was taken on the recommendations of a committee headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to save Rs500m annually.
“The recalling of trade officers selected last year is testing the political will of the government,” a source said.
Commerce Ministry’s Spokesperson Fazal Abbas said on Friday that a committee had been constituted to review the performance of trade officers posted abroad. It would also review the performance of the six officers who were recalled and they would be readjusted in other missions, he added.
The Pakistan People’s Party-led government last year appointed 42 trade officers. The then standing committee chairman and now Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir had termed them “political appointees”.
“Yes, I stick to my previous position that the trade officers were not appointed on merit,” Dastgir said, when contacted. However, he said a committee had been set up to review their performance.
Little did he know that these appointees have bipartisan political contacts. Their contacts were not limited to politicians belonging to the PPP who had helped them secure the prized postings.
Their contacts in the PML-N are now aggressively active to get them relocated to other foreign stations even if their missions have been closed down by the Dar committee.
A source in the commerce ministry said the commerce minister was under intense pressure from the PML-N parliamentarians to relocate these officers to other vacant posts abroad.
Two of the six trade officers have strong political influence and one is the husband of a state minister.
A bureaucrat loyal to the Sharif family who recently retired from the Prime Minister’s Secretariat as principal secretary is a strong supporter of another officer.
The husband of the sitting minister had secured his posting at a station which was closed down nine months after his posting on a court order in his favour as the PPP government was not willing to appoint him on merit.