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Ecnec reconstituted after IHC orders

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has reconstituted the Executive Committee of National Council (Ecnec) to comply with recent orders of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) which ruled against unelected advisers and special assistants to head decision-making forums.

According to a notification issued by the Cabinet Division, Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh will continue to be the chairman of the eight-member inter-provincial decision-making body on development. He was earlier leading the forum as Adviser to PM on Finance.

On Dec 7, the IHC had ruled that the unelected advisers and special assistants cannot head the government’s committees and subsequently set aside the notification of Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCoP) headed by Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance Abdul Hafeez Sheikh. Shaikh was then notified as federal minister.

As a result, the prime minister excluded Adviser to PM on Commerce and Industry Abdul Razak Dawood, Adviser to PM on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Husain from the Ecnec. In their place Minister for Planning Asad Umar and Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar made their way into the reconstituted Ecnec. Minister for Economic Affairs Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar, formerly planning minister, would continue to be the federal member.

Asad and Hammad have been inducted

In addition to these members, Ecnec would also continue to include four provincial members; Finance Minister Punjab Makhdum Hashim Jawan Bakht, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro from Sindh, KP Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra and Balochistan Minister for Communication and Works Nawabzada Tariq Khan Magsi.

The deputy chairman planning commission, Dr Ishrat Hussain and Abdul Razak Dawood besides secretaries of economic affairs, finance and planning and development would be invited to all meetings while representatives of federal and provincial governments as well as of the Government of AJ&K, Gilgit-Baltistan and Fata shall be invited to the meetings on a need basis.

The sources said the previous Ecnec had last met in October 2020 and a number of important initiatives and projects of the government referred by Central Development Working Party had been awaiting approval. This also included Rs739bn Karachi Transformation Plan and Rs37.91bn optic fibre cable (OFC) project along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Route (Khunjrab-Gwadar-Karachi).

Officials said the Ministry of Planning had been requesting the Cabinet Division for early reconstitution of the body and arranging its meeting to clear the backlog. Also, the Planning Commission also wanted reactivation of the Ecnec has serious issues had started cropping up including those relating to foreign inflows to development projects.

The international lenders do not take up development projects or their financing for approval or disbursement before securing approval from the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) or Ecnec. Under financial rules, CDWP can approve up to Rs10bn worth of development schemes and refer projects of higher costs to Ecnec for approval.

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