Leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), PML-N, said they will create a Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources by merging the Ministry of Water and Power with the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to help solve the country’s energy crisis.
The plan was promised on page 24 of the PML-N Manifesto.
The Party’s plan was to create a single ministry for energy and natural resources, eliminating additional portfolios. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had created a large cabinet with 34 federal ministers at the time of dissolution.
A PML-N spokesperson, Asim Khan, told Truth Tracker that work is under way on the merging of ministries. “We have been brainstorming this for a long time now,” Khan said. “One of our objectives was that the different domains would be united for better governance, and the promise was in our manifesto,” Khan said.
He said that that WAPDA and other departments responsible for natural resources would be brought under a single ministry.
He did not confirm the combination of ministries, but said he thought it seemed likely. It seemed that the promise was under way.
Pakistan has been facing a grave energy crisis. The country has been facing an electricity shortfall with blackouts occurring almost daily. The PML-N had believed that the creation of a single ministry would ease governance.
There are 342 members of Parliament, and under the 18th Amendment, the size of the federal cabinet cannot exceed 11 percent of the total. Thus, PML-N can have a maximum of 38 people in the cabinet. But it formed a 25-member cabinet. Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid says the PML-N wants to cut unnecessary expenditures by keeping the cabinet’s size smaller than the previous one.
The promise of creating a single ministry has been broken. After the new cabinet was announced, the two ministries were still active under two separate ministers.
In an interview with Truth Tracker, PML-N senior leader and Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif said that both ministries would continue to work separately.
“These portfolios are too large, and have immense responsibilities,” Asif said. “They need a separate person each so that there is more focused attention on the issues.”
The PML-N leader, however, said that the party vision was to restrict the total number of ministries to a maximum of 25, and restrict the growth of divisions.
“There have just been a lot of titles and not much work,” Asif said. “We have made it result-oriented, and we are going to undertake a massive privatization agenda which will be pursued by our team members and we hope to deliver by December 31.”
The minister’s own portfolio, however, seems to be an exception to the party vision. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a competitive party that emerged as the third runner up in Pakistan’s national elections in May, said that creating a single ministry would have been a positive step. PTI Senior Vice President Asad Umar said, “It’s actually from our manifesto.” Umar said that integrated ministries would help streamline bureaucracy.
“Right now the process involves a lot of work and slows things down,” he said. “An integrated ministry may help improve the system.”
The former chairman of Pakistan’s Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA), Lt Gen (Retd) Zulfiqar Ali Khan, said that he believed that the creation of a single ministry by merging two ministries was a good idea.
“There should be a combined ministry and a combined regulator,” Khan said. “This is how it is in other countries and is a model that works.”
Khan believes that the regulatory bodies, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) and the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), should be combined.
The Sustainable Development Policy Institute, an independent think-tank in Pakistan, had echoed similar views in a press release earlier this year in April.
The press release said that Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, deputy executive director of SDPI had suggested that “Pakistan has to follow the integrated plan proposed by previous government and also consolidate all the energy ministries and departments into one ministry.”
Ahmed was quoted in the press release as having cited India as an example of timely deregulation in the energy sector.
Since Water and Power and Petroleum and Natural Resources ministries were not merged and are working under two ministers with separate secretariats, the promise stands broken.