In Pakistani politics, political parties bestow honours and privileges on their special workers and dear ones even if they are not elected to the assemblies. These people often assume power positions as advisors and special assistants to the Prime Minister (PM) and Chief Ministers (CMs) of the provinces. Though the constitution allows a chief minister to take help of advisors and special assistants in fulfilling his duties, however, the constitution does not allow them to act as an executive.  The Peshawar High Court while hearing the petition of Khushdil Khan who happens to be Awami National Party’s (ANP) member of provincial assembly (MPA) has suspended the appointment of the three advisors and two special assistants to the CM of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). And this is not the first case of impropriety in the KP cabinet.

The petition is an important one as it is challenging the law and rules that deal with the appointments of advisors and special assistants. According to the petitioner Khushdil Khan, the KP Advisors and Special Assistants to the Chief Minister (Appointment) Act, 1989, and Rule 33 A of the Rules of Business 1985 contradict the provision of the Constitution. The arguments made against the KP Advisers and Special Assistants to the Chief Minister (Appointment) Act are strong and valid. The court cannot dismiss Khushdil’s petition so easily. However, if the High Court strikes down the law on appointment of advisors and special assistants for violating the constitution, the fate of the suspended advisors and special assistants will be the real issue. Will they be able to carry on the functions conferred upon them by the provincial government? Looking at the arguments in the petition and the court’s suspension of the advisors give a hint that the court will bar them from performing the executive functions at least.

While saying a few words on the status of advisors and special assistants, the constitution intends to go beyond the politicos and handpick the best minds to take the country or province out of the crises they face. However, in Pakistan, these two positions, the holders of whom enjoy the status and perks and privileges, of a minister, are often given to incompetent people. The political parties have made these positions as part of the spoil system, rather than a means of improving the governance. Before taking up all other austerity measures, the government should put a stop to appointing excessive advisors and special assistants, many of whom do not even qualify the criteria for the task they are supposed to advise on.