In Pakistan, most of the ministries are being run de facto by special assistants of the prime minister. These members are unelected and do not represent the people but are appointed by the prime minister to advise him on various sectors of the country such as IT, Information, Power and Accountability etc. The role of these special assistants have often been criticised by the media, opposition politicians and even the Islamabad High Court (IHC). At the base of the criticism lies the concern that these people—since they did not secure the public’s votes—do not have a constituency to worry about and are not accountable in the same way that elected members of the parliament are. The IHC, in a recent judgment, ruled that special assistants and unelected advisors cannot exercise executive or administrative powers in the functioning of the government, and that only elected representatives chosen by people have the privilege to run ministries. The IHC was very clear that the appointment of a particular advisor in the capacity of a minister does not entitle him to act as one. “Appointing an Adviser with the status of a Minister does not empower him/her to act or function as a Minister or to perform functions under the Rules of Business 1973,” read the high court’s judgment. Which brings us to the curious case of some of our unelected special assistants to the prime minister. Take, for instance, the case of TabishGauhar, who was appointed as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Power a couple of months ago. Gauhar is a controversial figure who was in-charge of the K-Electric when the institution was mired in some deep problems that continues to affect it today. For instance, the organization’s payables and receivables both surged at that time. This proved to be a problem for the power distribution company since lack of receivables meant it encountered liquidity issues and its ballooning payables to the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC) put it in serious debt. The government must ensure that important ministries and posts are run by elected members who have an interest in serving the masses One word that haunts the current PTI-led regime is “U-Turn”. The SAPM on Power for instance has taken a U-turn on a policy that he was the architect. In a recent interview to the Business Recorder, he said that he opposed the KE’s policy of load management according to a particular area’s billing recovery rate — a policy that the power utility first employed during his tenure as chief executive. Then there is also the matter of offering independent power producer HUBCO liquidity of Rs65bn if the company agrees to convert its FO units on coal to generate electricity for KE. This is in contrast to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision for a “clean” Pakistan—according to which by 2030, 60% of Pakistan’s power will be generated by “clean” and renewable resources. The fact that the SAPM Power was in the past on HUBCO’s Board of Directors has led some industry observers to point to a possible case of a conflict of interest. Another Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Petroleum, Nadeem Babar, hasn’t been performing up to the mark as well. His delayed decision-making with regard to securing LNG bids for Pakistan have resulted in a gas crisis for the country till January 2021. Had Babar taken the decision to bid for LNG cargoes in August-September 2020. Due to the ministry’s delayed decision making, Pakistan on Monday received bids from five LNG trading companies for two LNG cargoes for February 2021 but however, these were at the highest price of up to 32.4888 percent of Brent. That said, he did agree to a televised public debate with Former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and managed to defend the current government’s LNG decisions and presented his ministry’s side of the story to an otherwise skeptical audience. One can recall the case of Tania Aidrus, who was appointed as special assistant to the prime minister to spearhead the government’s Digital Pakistan Initiative. She found herself in hot waters after it was found out that she was the chairperson of Digital Pakistan Foundation (DPF), a not-for-profit organisation that was formed to raise funds from investors/external donors through grants, facilitating procurement and entering into legal arrangements to advance the purpose of the Initiative. The haste with which the DFP was incorporated prior to MsAidrus taking over as Imran Khan’s special assistant is what raised eyebrows. The organisation was a Special Purpose Vehicle, incorporated to deal and/or negotiate directly with donors and investors and thus escape the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of state institutions. However, with MsAidrus as the PM’s special assistant, it did create a conflict of interest situation that ultimately led her to resign from the post. The government must ensure that important ministries and posts are run by elected members who have an interest in serving the masses. We must not experiment anymore or hand over vital sectors of Pakistan to members who are unelected or have no interest in serving the masses. The writer is a freelance journalist with an interest in energy and power issues.