Omar Ayub appointed ECC chairman

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In a bid to circumvent a court judgement that bars unelected members from heading cabinet committees, the government on Thursday appointed Shaukat Tarin the head of a sub-committee of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to ensure he remained part of the decision-making process.

Prime Minister Imran Khan reconstituted the ECC of the cabinet and made Economic Affairs Minister Omar Ayub the head of the committee in place of Tarin, according to a notification issued by the Cabinet Division.

Tarin, who was recently appointed the finance adviser, had to be replaced with another minister as the ECC chairman after his six-month ministerial term ended on October 15 owing to the prime minister’s decision to not get him elected within six months. Tarin had been appointed finance minister for a six-month period with a promise from the prime minister to get him elected as a senator in a bid to make him a de jure finance minister.

The prime minister has been pleased to reconstitute the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet with immediate effect, according to the notification.

Shaukat Tarin is not a member of the ECC and his name is among 22 special invitees, revealed the notification.

Soon after the reconstitution, Omar Ayub called the first ECC meeting with a 10-point agenda and surprised everyone with his first decision, except Tarin, a cabinet member told The Express Tribune after the meeting.

Ayub decided to constitute a sub-committee of the ECC under the chairmanship of Tarin. He said that all summaries of the ECC would first go to the Tarin-led committee and the ECC would stamp the decisions following its approval. “The technical committees are part and parcel of the ECC,” said Ayub while talking to The Express Tribune. Ayub said that the technical committee would comprise federal ministers and secretaries and Tarin would be its head.

Ministers for maritime affairs, planning and development, energy and adviser to prime minister on commerce along with two other cabinet ministers would be members of the technical committee, said Ayub. According to the arrangement, the summaries will first go to the ECC which will then forward them to Tarin’s committee. The Tarin-led committee will then refer the summaries back to the ECC with recommendation and the ECC would then refer these to the cabinet for verification.

It is a mockery of the Islamabad High Court’s judgment and tantamount to reduce the ECC to a rubber stamp of finance adviser, a cabinet member said on condition of anonymity.

The sources said that Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid objected to ECC chairman’s decision and said that making Tarin head of a sub-committee was not possible. He went on to say that if the meeting had been called to just announce the decision then there was no need for this meeting. The sources said Sheikh Rashid also cautioned that the decision to make Tarin head of ECC sub-committee can be challenged in the court. However, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce, Razak Dawood, who is also ECC special invitee, said that ECC sub-committee can be headed by Tarin.

In December last year, the Islamabad High Court ruled that any executive function performed by any unelected member of the prime minister’s team would deem to have been taken illegally, without any lawful authority and hence void. “Appointing an adviser with the status of a minister does not empower him/her to act or function as a minister or to perform functions under the Rules of Business 1973.”

An adviser can speak and attend the proceedings of the parliament but cannot vote. The business of the executive authority and the manner in which it is to be exercised is governed under the Rules of 1973, which does not contemplate the role of an adviser, according to the court’s decision. After announcing constitution of the sub-committee of the ECC that is already a committee of the Cabinet, Ayub called off the meeting and referred the ten-point agenda to the newly constituted committee. Now a special invitee of the ECC will chair a sub-committee of the ECC and exercise executive powers on behalf of the cabinet.

The ECC meeting ended within 5 mins, which was the shortest period of any ECC meeting.

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