Rifts have become public in recent days between Shahid Khaqan Abbasi,Ahsan Iqbal, and Khawaja Asif
What good is a relatively homogenous cabinet if it cannot effectively coordinate the functions of government? The Nawaz Administration has received flak for having a cabinet that poorly reflects the country’s diversity. There was hope, however, that a cabinet consisting of people who knew one another well might perform a little better than their disastrous predecessors. Yet the rifts that have become public in recent days between Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, and Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif suggest that far from a collegial environment, the cabinet is a hotbed of internecine turf wars between ministers who seem more keen to preserve authority over their respective jurisdictions rather than working towards common policy goals.
That it is these specific ministers fighting is even more worrisome. Ostensibly, the problem arises from a lack of coordination on energy projects being undertaken by the federal government. The Petroleum Ministry and the Water and Power Ministry feel that the Planning Commission is burying their projects with unnecessary paperwork. This may well be true: the Commission’s red tape is so famous that the moniker of their basic form, the PC-1, is now a household name. But the broader problem is that a critical area of public policy — managing the energy grid — is the task of no fewer than four federal ministries, in addition to running into coordination issues with provincial ministries. There has been talk for the need to consolidate at least the Water and Power Ministry and the Petroleum Ministry into a single Energy Ministry, which could then have a more holistic view of the national energy policy, instead of the factionalised view to which the country has grown accustomed to. It is time the government implemented this idea, which it had earlier shown some sympathy to. The latest spat between the ministers only shows the urgency of the need to consolidate government decision-making at the highest levels.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2015.
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