ISLAMABAD - There is an outcry on social media following Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Affairs Naeemul Haq chaired a meeting at the Cabinet Division in which some senior members of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet participated as members.

Many social media and political activists, journalists and others censured Haq, a close aide to PM Imran Khan, on different social networking sites for presiding over a meeting and giving directions to elected representatives including members of the National Assembly and federal ministers. PM Khan also came under criticism for allowing his close aide to chair a meeting.

Some also wrongly came down hard on former information secretary Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for chairing the cabinet meeting as the meeting under question was not that of the cabinet at all. It was held on Thursday this week.

However, people have entered into a debate questioning the profile of Mr Haq for chairing a meeting comprising of senior cabinet members and MNAs. The special assistant to PM is associated with PM Khan since his cricket days and was once made secretary information of PTI but he never remained an elected representative. He is known among political circles and within the party as a loyalist of PM Khan.

Azam Khan, a journalist who works for the BBC, through Twitter shared photograph of the meeting and said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been saying during his opposition days that he would “introduce a system based on merit; would not give benefits to his friends; would place right persons at the right place and would not indulge in nepotism.” He through his tweet criticised the PM for allowing Mr Haq to chair the meeting.

The photograph shared on the Twitter and other social networking sites shows Haq chairing the meeting while Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Federal Minister for Aviation Division Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Federal Minister for Power Omer Ayub Khan, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan and Special Assistant to PM on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza are in attendance besides other senior bureaucrats.

A letter issued by the Cabinet Division says that 5th meeting of the Steering Committee on Sustainable Development Goals Achievement Programme (SAP) is scheduled to be held on 5th September, 2019 in the committee room of the Cabinet Block.

According to the letter, SAPM Haq is the convener of that committee while federal ministers of defence, federal education, interprovincial coordination, planning and development, and power; and state minister for parliamentary affairs are its members besides some members of the National Assembly and federal and provincial secretaries.

Haq himself took to social media to respond to the criticism and said, “A meeting of the Steering Committee on Sustainable Development Goals of which I am convener was held recently. The committee comprises of ministers, MNAs, and federal secretaries. Many armchair observers have criticised it wrongly thinking it was a cabinet meeting presided over by me.”

Under the constitution, special assistant to the PM is not even a cabinet member of the prime minister and he cannot attend the sittings of any house of the parliament like advisers to the PM, and state and federal ministers. He or she can only attend the cabinet meeting on a special invitation.