ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce on Thursday unanimously recommended that the notifications of postings of commercial counselors should be put on hold until committee examines the records.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce met on Thursday with MNA Khurram Dastagir in chair. The committee took notice of the irregularities in the appointments of new commercial counselors. The committee showed grave concerns over the mechanism adopted regarding deployment of 44 commercial attaches and said that merit system has not been followed in these postings and eligible persons have been ignored as they were not called for initial test. Committee members said that earlier this number was 60 then why it had been reduced and under whose directions it had been done. The committee showed serious reservations on the whole selection process beginning with the unjustified downgrading of the qualification threshold in the written test and the low weightage assigned to the written test (20%), which was the only objective criterion to judge the applicants and the very wide scope for arbitrary decisions and favoritism in eventual selection and place of postings.

Therefore, the committee unanimously recommended that the notifications of postings of commercial counselors should be put on hold until committee has examined the records, which has been summoned in next few days. The committee recommended to Secretary Commerce to give details of summary sent to the Prime Minister for deployment of trade officers abroad and to submit complete details of this process.

The committee members also cited various examples of nepotism, favoritism and unwarranted postings of lower grade officers in higher grades. The committee members expressed alarm over the arbitrary manner in which the selected counselors were assigned lucrative postings. The committee also reiterated its earlier reservations that commerce ministry should devise ways and means to evaluate job performance of those who have recently served as commercial counselors and of those who are due to be posted as commercial counselors.

The officials of the commerce ministry informed that posts have been reduced from 60 seats to 40 following the directions of then Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani.

Standing Committee asked to give details of persons deployed as trade officers in Paris, Montrial, London, Berlin, Norway and Athens as these are important places and good trade relations with these countries can give boost to our exports. During the meeting, Secretary Commerce Munir A Qureshi apprised the committee that out of forty-four candidates, 37 have been called back while rest would return soon.

Talking about Pak-Afghan transit trade, Secretary Commerce informed the committee that all conditions of the agreement have not been enforced therefore we are facing few problems however these issues would streamline soon. He said that Afghan govt has started paying insurance guarantee that was not paid earlier. Qureshi said that subsidization is given to the backward areas and government is facilitating them to promote those products produced in those areas.

The committee looked into the Export Development Fund (EDF) allocations for the current fiscal year 2012-2013. The ministry informed the committee that apart from the annual allocations to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), no project had been given final approval and thus as to the date of meeting, Rs 327 million in EDF are lying with the ministry.