ISLAMABAD  -   Former chairman Senate and PPP stalwart Mian Raza Rabbani Friday criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan for inducting around two dozen non-elected people into his cabinet terming it a move towards introduction of presidential form of government in the country.

Speaking in the Senate on a point of public importance, Rabbani underscored that political forces in the country would not accept any form of government except the existing parliamentary system which had come into force as a result of the struggle of masses. He also said that parliament was being made redundant by allegedly bringing this so-called technocrat set-up of non-elected people. However, Leader of the House Senator Shibli Faraz responding to Rabbani said that relevant law minister should come in the parliament and answer the points raised by Rabbani.

Rabbani claimed that PM Imran Khan has inducted as many 22 non-elected people in his cabinet including five advisers and 17 special assistants. According to the recent notifications issued, all the important portfolios including that of finance, power, petroleum, health, information, commerce and overseas Pakistanis are with these non-elected people, he added. “This raises suspicions whether we are moving towards a quasi-presidential form of government,” he said.

While referring to different articles of the Constitution and Rules of Business of federal government, he said that advisers and special assistants did not take oath of their offices. “How sensitive information of national security could be shared with these people when these non-elected people have not taken oath of their offices,” he questioned. He reminded that oath means oath of secrecy as well.

He argued that though it was a total prerogative of prime minister to change his cabinet and appoint any person as his cabinet member yet questions are raised when these appointments affect the functioning either of the federal government or the parliament. “Do you want to make the parliament redundant,” he questioned.

Rabbani said that the PM was the in-charge of all ministries or divisions not assigned to any minister. It means that the PM is the in-charge of 22 ministries or divisions and he will have to sign all summaries or bills circulating from these ministries. “This is worrisome,” he said. He similarly added that the minister for parliamentary affairs and state minister for parliamentary affairs would have to answer questions of 17 ministries in the Parliament House and attend meetings of the standing committees of these ministries as special assistants couldn’t sit in the parliament. “Is it fair that two ministers would run affairs of these 17 ministries?”

He said that it looked that efforts were underway to move towards the authoritarian development model of military dictator General (retd) Ayub Khan. In Ayub Khan system, the President could veto any bill passed by the parliament, he reminded. This country is being given a direction to that system which will not acceptable to all political forces, he argued.

Later, speaking on his call attention notice regarding alleged reallocation of Rs24 billion out of total Rs27 billion under the head of special initiatives of China Pakistan Economic Corridor Project (CPEC) towards other programs, Rabbani cast doubts that perhaps the government had diverted the amount under foreign pressure including “US and its allies.” He said that it was inappropriate to abandon CPEC project when Pakistan’s strategic interests are linked with China and the One Belt, One Road Initiative.

Rabbani said that it was visible that there was again a tilt in the country’s foreign policy and they were heading towards US.

Referring to some statements of US officials and IMF, he claimed that pressure was being built on Pakistan for gradual withdrawal from CPEC and to reduce strategic relationship with China. He demanded that parliament should be taken into confidence on conditionalities of IMF for getting a bailout package.

Responding to the PPP senator, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Khan Swati said that Rs 27 billion allocation in the current budget had no link with CPEC as it was additional allocation besides the original allocation of RS 167 billion earmarked for CPEC projects. He said that 70 percent amount of this total allocation had been released for the current fiscal year. “All allocations of on-going CPEC projects are protected despite rationalization of Public Sector Development Program.

Separately, lawmakers taking part in the debate on an adjournment motion moved by MQM Senator Ateeq Shaikh argued that excessive use and sale of antibiotic including 3rd and 4th generation antibiotics in Pakistan had become one of the biggest life threats. They said that doctors in Pakistan were prescribing antibiotic to adults and children equally without keeping their dangers in mind.

Senator Shaikh and Senator Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini said that excessive use of antibiotic was weakening the immune system of people belonging to all age groups. Senator Dr Shahzad Waseem said that no data in the country regarding doctors’ prescription patterns was available as this data could be helpful for formulation of national health policy.