ISLAMABAD - The announcement by Imran Khan, after emergence of PTI as the single largest party in the general elections, that he would prefer to stay in a smaller house instead of palatial Prime Minister’s House is more of a symbolic value than some real impact of it on the national kitty.
Actually, it carries the message of austerity from the top echelon of power and would definitely have trickledown effects with his would-be cabinet colleagues and others to follow it by curtailing the lavish spending on the state expense.
Political analysts saw the announcement with scepticism as in the past many a times such promises had been made but on one pretext or the other the same could not be materialised. Even after forming the government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in 2013, PTI chief Imran Khan had announced that they would convert Chief Minister and Governor houses into some welfare projects and the party’s chief minister would stay in an ordinary house but the pledge could never be materialised and in the name of security Pervaiz Khattak finally sneaked into Chief Minister’s House spread over several hundred kanals of land.
A senior parliamentarian showed doubt on implementation of Imran Khan’s announcement, though he did not doubt his(Imran) sincerity as on so many pretexts primarily the powerful bureaucracy would not let him move out of the Prime Minister’s House owing to security and other reasons.
In the past too, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had attempted several times in his second and third stint in power when he had wanted to shift to some other house in the Ministers Colony or Punjab House but the security officials and powerful bureaucracy had frustrated the move terming security of both these places inadequate for the Chief Executive to stay. And on top of it they had convinced Nawaz Sharif that his shifting and fresh security arrangements for his stay outside the Prime Minister’s House would be requiring much more money than they were spending on managing the existing security arrangements for the Prime Minister’s House. So, despite his strong desire Nawaz Sharif could not leave the Prime Minister’s House.
They have many other reasons including the hindrance in the smooth conduct of working in case of Imran Khan’s shifting out of Prime Minister’s House located in the close vicinity of Prime Minister’s Office.
The people dealing with the security of Prime Minister’s House with Pak Secretariat on one side and President House on the other were of the view that the palatial building spread over 100 acres of land could not be used for any other purpose such as its conversion into a university or museum owing to highly sensitive security area, so they would convince Imran Khan to stay at the Prime Minister’s House instead of shifting out somewhere else as it would increase the burden on national exchequer instead of saving money.
Although it was not final yet where Imran Khan would live but some PTI leaders were saying that he would stay at residence allocated for Speaker National Assembly in Ministers’ Colony where hefty money would be spent for upgrading the security for the Prime Minister as per the laid down criteria.
Interestingly, the paraphernalia for running the functions both at Prime Minister’s House and his office would remain the same and the main chunk of money used to go in these heads and the staff and other requisites for running these places would remain be there even if Imran Khan would prefer to shift out of the Prime Minister’s House and stay at some relatively smaller residence in the Ministers’ Colony.
Surely it would have given a good message from top to bottom in the government machinery and lavish spending on running the offices in the federal government would scale down but it would not have any radical impact on the overall economy of the country.
In the meeting at Banni Gala the close confidants of Imran Khan suggested that instead of taking oath at Presidency he should take oath in public and preferably at D-Chowk where he had staged a record 120 days sit-in against the government but security officials had frustrated the move before it shapes up on security grounds and termed the place highly unsafe for top civil and military bureaucrats, foreign envoys and dignitaries. Now it would yet to be seen whether Imran Khan could go ahead with his plan of not staying at Prime Minister’s House after taking oath as Chief Executive or he would be trapped in the shackles of status quo by the top bureaucracy and security apparatus.