The Islamabad High Court has ruled that the prime minister's advisors and special assistants have no executive authority vested in them to chair or become members of cabinet committees.
The judgment was issued by a division bench comprising Justice Aamir Farooq and Justice Ghulam Azam Qambrani in a petition file by PML-N lawmaker Barrister Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha challenging the inclusion of Shaikh, Advisor to PM on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain and Advisor to PM on Commerce Abdul Razzak Dawood in the CCoP.
The bench set aside the notification regarding the formation of the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCoP).
The judgment noted that Article 93 of the Constitution allows the prime minister to appoint up to five advisors and conferring of a federal minister status on an advisor is "only for the purpose of perks and privileges" and "does not make the advisor a federal minister as such".
It further ruled that the advisor to the premier is not a member of the cabinet, cannot participate in the proceedings hence can also not be a member or even chair a committee cabinet. "He can address the Parliament but cannot participate in the voting process."
On the matter of special assistants, the judgment stated that the post is not provided per se in the Constitution but Rules of Business have been framed under Article 99 of the Constitution and Rule 4(6) allows the prime minister to appoint special assistants and confer upon them "such status as he/ she deems appropriate".
However, the judgment explains that conferring the status of minister of state would make special assistant a person of that designation. The status is only "for the purpose of perks and privileges".
The special assistants to the premier are by no means members of the cabinet as they are not elected persons and/ or federal ministers.
The judgment noted that the bench disagreed with the deputy attorney general's contention that the prime minister may appoint any member of the cabinet as a member of the committee of the cabinet under Sub-rule 2 of Rule 17.
"We are unable to agree with this argument of the learned Deputy Attorney General as it seems to be in violation of the Constitution and the law in as much as if it was to be inferred or held that though a non-elected person cannot be a Member of the Cabinet yet he can be a Member of the Committee of the Cabinet and even can chair the same, it would be in the negation of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973," reads the verdict.
"Undoubtedly, on special requests, persons can be called in by the committee but no person can be the chairman or a member of the committee of the cabinet, who is not a member of the cabinet."