What do the advisors do and why are they appointed?
Advisors are supposed to give advice on specific issues. They ought to be experts in certain areas. However, most of the advisors in Pakistan are appointed to appease or accommodate someone. Often, posts of advisors are created without any real need to ensure that there are enough official positions to adjust people who need to be accommodated.
The case of an advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is interesting. What was the compulsion to appoint him an advisor and then forget about him?
For almost five months, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Amir Muqam had no official work to do despite being an advisor to the Prime Minister.
Finally, a notification was issued recently to assign him the task of monitoring and supervising the federal government departments operating in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The announcement brought relief to his supporters, who celebrated the occasion by paying for newspaper advertisements to felicitate Amir Muqam and thank prime minister Nawaz Sharif for reposing trust in him.
Amir Muqam has done this kind of work in the past also, but there was a different prime minister at the time. Also, he was an elected legislator then and also a member of the federal cabinet. Presently, he is an unelected advisor to the prime minister because he lost the assembly election in May 2013.
It was on October 29, 2014 that Amir Muqam, hailing from Shangla district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was appointed an advisor to the prime minister. He was given the office after much effort and lobbying. However, he wasn’t assigned any portfolio or work. It took Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif another five months to assign some responsibility, or work, to his advisor. It remains to be seen if the federal government departments in KP placed under his supervision listen to him or ignore him.
There came a time in the past five months that Amir Muqam, frustrated due to lack of authority despite being an advisor to the prime minister, tendered his resignation. None of his demands was being accepted. He was a powerless advisor, his brother Dr Ibadullah who is MNA from Shangla district, wasn’t given any position in the federal government, and none of the three MNAs in his group from Fata — Shahabuddin of Bajaur Agency, Ghalib Khan of South Waziristan and Nazeer Khan of North Waziristan — was considered for a berth in the cabinet. Instead, an independent tribal member of the Senate, Abbas Afridi, was retained as a federal minister from the Fata quota in the PML-N government after having earlier served in the cabinet of the PPP government.
The neglect that Amir Muqam suffered annoyed his supporters. A perception took hold among his followers that the federal government cared only for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmakers from Hazara division and ignored those from other parts of KP. The familiar refrain of the Hazara versus the Pakhtun belt of KP began to be heard.
Amir Muqam, the burly engineer who made his money as a contractor and businessman, had joined PML-N with high expectations. He had held negotiations with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) also and was inclined to join it, but Imran Khan and his aides rejected Amir Muqam’s conditions for joining the party. Amir Muqam was a federal minister when he quit the government and aligned himself with Nawaz Sharif. The latter was criticised at the time for letting a prominent supporter of General Pervez Musharraf and a Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q) stalwart join the PML-N. However, the PML-N made a pragmatic decision as it needed a known politician with grassroots support in Malakand division to join its ranks to win some assembly seats in the seven districts in the region. Amir Muqam lost from his constituency in Swat, but his group did manage to win a national and a provincial assembly seat from his native Shangla.
Earlier, Musharraf had lured Amir Muqam to ditch his party, Jamaat-i-Islami, and join the PML-Q despite his election in the 2002 general election as an MNA on the ticket of the six-party religious alliance, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA). Musharraf developed a liking for Amir Muqam, calling him his brother and gifting him his pistol during a visit to Swat. Many opportunist politicians flocked to Amir Muqam when they realised that he was close to Musharraf. However, their brotherhood ended when Musharrafrule came to an end and Amir Muqam declined to join the former general’s All Pakistan Muslim League (APML).
Amir Muqam maintained at the time that he had advised Musharraf not to launch his political party as it had no future. He was right, but Musharraf had floated the APML in the hope that people like Amir Muqam, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, his cousin Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and many others who had benefited from his rule would join the party and contribute to give it a bright future. Most such politicians stayed away from him and some who initially joined him gradually drifted away as they found out that Musharraf had played his innings and his APML stood no chance of winning the elections. It was time to look for greener pastures and the PML-N and the PTI offered better opportunities of entering the corridors of powers than staying with Musharraf.
Advisor Amir Muqam may not be required to offer advice to the prime minister, but there was need to give him an official title. He couldn’t be made a minister as he wasn’t an elected MNA or Senator. Another option was making him a special assistant, but the title sounded bureaucratic and inferior. So he was made an advisor, but wasn’t given any real work. Last week he was finally given some authority, though one isn’t sure if he would be able to exercise any real powers.
Amir Muqam is a politician in constant touch with party workers and voters. He is also brave, having survived at least six attacks on his life claimed by the militants. Unlike some other politicians, he has refused to leave his village, district and province despite threats to his life and his family. He could have been an asset to the PML-N, but the prime minister has no time for his Advisor and no use for his political skills.