ISLAMABAD: In anticipation of a possible vote of no confidence or disqualification, the Chief Minister of Gilgit Baltistan, Muhammad Khalid Khurshid, who is facing allegations of possessing a fake degree, has appointed 14 new coordinators, bringing the total number of his team to 24.
The move is seen as an attempt to galvanise his support base and strengthen his position. In addition to the 24 coordinators, the Chief Minister’s cabinet already comprises of 12 ministers, two advisers, and five special assistants.
Political analysts have expressed concerns that this large number of positions places a heavy burden on the limited budget of the regional government.
According to a notification issued on May 20, the Chief Minister appointed 14 new coordinators. The newly appointed coordinators include Ashraf Hussain and Hussain from Bara District in Ghanche, Syed Mehdi Shah from Skardu District, Abdul Khaliq from Ghanche, Muhamad Adeel Ram from Shigar District, Ghulam Haider from Skardu District, Sajida Sadaqat from Astore District, Raja Shehbaz Khan from Hunza District, Manzoor Hussain from Gilgit District, Sarwar Shah from Diamer District, Kalbe Ali from Nagar District, Muhammad Yousuf from Skardu District, Atique Peerzada from Gilgit District, Muzamil Hassan from Skardu District and Sana Ullah Khuram from Astore District.
These coordinators will serve at the pleasure of the Chief Minister and will receive a fixed monthly salary of Rs150,000/-. The addition of these 14 coordinators brings the total number of public office holders in the Chief Minister’s team to over 45.
It is worth noting that there were already 10 coordinators, including two media coordinators, representing the Chief Minister in Islamabad. The GB government had previously amended the rules of business to allow for the creation of these 10 coordinator positions.
The coordinators are appointed by the Chief Minister and serve at his pleasure. They are entitled to a salary equal to half of the salary of a special assistant to the Chief Minister.
With the inclusion of 24 coordinators, along with the speaker, deputy speaker, focal person to the Chief Minister, political secretary to the CM, and four parliamentary secretaries, the total number of public office holders in GB reaches around 50. This is significantly larger than the total number of members from the ruling party and its allies in the Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly, which is only 23.
Critics have raised concerns about the large size of the cabinet, given that the region has a population of only 1.6 million. According to the constitution, the cabinet can have a maximum of 11 percent of the total strength of the parliament, with each cabinet member required to be a member of parliament.
In GB, this would mean there could be only four cabinet members, including the Chief Minister. However, through the Self-Governance Ordinance of GB introduced by the Pakistan People’s Party in 2009, the suggested size of the GB cabinet was increased to nine members, including six ministers, two advisers, and the Chief Minister.
The PTI government in GB has expanded the cabinet and the number of office holders to around 50 members, including the Chief Minister, which is 151 percent of the total number of GBLA members (33), far exceeding the 11 percent limit set by the constitution of Pakistan.
Experts have expressed concerns that expanding the cabinet and increasing the number of political figures will burden the limited budget of the region without yielding any significant benefits. The increased expenditure on administration and employees’ expenses has resulted in reduced allocations for the education and health sectors, both in terms of development and non-development budgets, in recent years.