Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed Azam Jamil as his Special Assistant (SAPM) on Tourism Coordination on December 31. Jamil is indeed an internationally recognised corporate trainer and motivational speaker. He has also served on different positions at leading organisations such as Serena hotel, Hashoo Education Division, Akhuwat and has on his credit some of the key projects that shape Pakistan’s tourism industry.
But the more important factor in making Jamil fit for this position was being PM Khan’s classmate and friend at the Aitchison College.
Moreover, Jamil has been a diehard supporter of Khan and his narrative of creating Naya Pakistan and Riyasat-e-Madina. With Azam Jamils’s inclusion, the number of special assistants to the prime minister has risen to 18 with 12 non-elected aides.
For PTI critics, this was another reason to believe that PM Khan is doing exactly opposite to what he has been saying while in the opposition. Ever since PM Khan assumed office, he has elevated his old friends to several high ranking positions.
British Pakistani multi-millionaire businessman, Syed Zulfi Abbas Bukhari, commonly known as Zulfi Bukhari, served as SAPM for overseas Pakistanis. Before stepping down from the prestigious position after he was allegedly found involved in the Rawalpindi Ring Road scam, Zulfi was enjoying as much perks and was availing all the privileges that a Minister of State enjoys. He was also given an additional portfolio of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) chairman.
Zulfi, a lobbyist, has allegedly been financing Khan’s tours to London, Dubai and India and is a trusted friend of PM Khan’s. Enjoying his strong association with the PM, he once managed to fly to Saudi Arabia, along with Khan and the first lady, despite being on Exit Control List (ECL) and even when Khan wasn’t in power.
Cricketer-turned-commentator and former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja got elected as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman in September last year. Raja was first nominated as a member of the Board of Governors of the PCB and then formally made the chairman. Although Raja made it to the top PCB slot through organisational elections, yet everybody knew he would seal the position because of his friendship with PM Khan and for overwhelmingly supporting PTI and Khan’s way of doing politics through his social media accounts. As expected, Raja was elected unopposed. Raja’s predecessor, Ehsan Mani, was also a close friend of Imran Khan’s. Khan appointed Mani as the PCB chief even before formally accepting the resignation of the outgoing chief Najam Sethi.
All through its struggling days in the opposition, Imran Khan played media optics well and in this way he was supported by Iftikhar Durrani.
In the past, however, Khan laid problems “why cricket, unlike elsewhere, failed to become an institution in the country because here the PM appoints PCB chief”. But after becoming the PM, Khan has himself appointed PCB chiefs twice in just three years.
It won’t be wrong if we say the media facilitated PTI and Imran Khan to seize power in the country. All through its struggling days in the opposition, Imran Khan played media optics well and in this way he was supported by Iftikhar Durrani. Durrani, a trusted old friend of Khan, was among very few aides who moved into Banigala, PM’s private residence, and in close circles of Khan. For his diligent services, mostly from behind the scene, Durrani was appointed as the PM’s advisor on the media with the status of a minister of state. Later, Durrani was seen defending every government move.
The list of Khan’s friends who made it to the government ranks or its subsidiary department is long. Not only has the PM chosen and placed his friends, he has equally facilitated several of his or the PTI’s admirers. Abrar ul Haq, Shahbaz Gill, Yousaf Baig Mirza, Dr. Faisal Sultan, Muzamil Aslam are some of the names we repeatedly see and hear. Not to mention the several social media workers of the PTI.
Imran Khan has always vowed to introduce a team that would transform the system once and for all — that too in a matter of months, not years. No harm, of course, if the PM choses a right person for the right job. The problem is Khan always schooled his predecessors through fiery speeches and multiple media appearances for doing the same. Likewise, PTI’s social media teams, both paid and unpaid, ran vile trends against former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Yousuf Raza Gillani for picking men of their choice.
Pro-PTI anchors while hosting primetime talk shows also slammed previous government’s stints of appointments on personal choices.
But despite these controversial appointments, there seems to be no progress from their respective departments, except cricket. Tourism remains at the mercy of bad governance or mismanagement — Murree tragedy is just one of many examples. Moreover, Pakistani media is witnessing unprecedented suppression and the country as a whole is heading towards economic slump. The clock is ticking and Khan’s handpicked team has only a year and half to make a statement. So far it is failing.