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September 19, 2018

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Government of friends!

ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan’s friends, one after the other, have started getting roles in his government.

British national Syed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari, commonly known as Zulfi Bukhari, is the latest induction in Imran Khan’s official team, while some other friends have already been given cabinet berths, either at the center or in Punjab.

However, another of Khan’s confidantes, Mufti Saeed, is yet to be given any role in the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) coalition administration.

Mufti Saeed was part of two important engagements earlier this year in the presence of two witnesses, Awn Chaudhary and Zulfi Bukhari. Both are now part of the government set-up. Awn Chaudhary was recently appointed as an adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, while Zulfi Bukhari was yesterday appointed as the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, with the status of a minister of state.

Naeemul Haq, who has a long personal association with Imran Khan and has been a regular feature of Banigala for years, is already serving Prime Minister Imran Khan as his political adviser. Haq also enjoys the status of a state minister.

Iftikhar Durrani, another close aide of Imran Khan since he moved to Banigala, is now the PM’s adviser on the media with the status of a minister of state. Iftikhar is said to have qualified for the cabinet slot because of his media-related work during the last few years.

Ehsan Mani, another friend of Imran Khan, has been appointed the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Zakir Khan, who is also on the list of his close friends, has also been made the PCB director for international cricket.

Khan's friend and British-Pakistani entrepreneur Aneel Musarrat recently made headlines when he was allowed to attend a cabinet meeting in Islamabad on Monday. Musarrat subsequently told The News that he would provide free advice to PM Imran Khan on his plans to build five million low-cost homes, but would not take up any formal role in the cabinet.

Since Khan assumed office, there has been a lot of speculation about the role of Musarrat, whose pictures with Imran Khan and a few other top Pakistani officials recently went viral on the social media.

But Musarrat subsequently told The News that he would take no official position in the Pakistani government and has no plans to do business here, although he admitted to having been given an informal role by the prime minister.

Talking to The News on friends getting slots in the government, a source close to the prime minister said it’s not about friends, it’s about governance. Requesting anonymity, he said the practice of engaging people of character, competence and higher skills in specific fields was not unique to Pakistan rather it happened world over.

He said the previous governments had given government positions to close relatives and friends.

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