Islamabad: Two key aides to the Pakistan Prime Minister, including de facto Health Minister Zafar Mirza, has resigned, amid the government facing stiff criticism for appointing individuals with dual nationality or holding another country permanent residency as SAPMs, media reports said on Thursday.
Two notifications issued by the Cabinet Division said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Imran Khan had accepted resignations of Mirza and Tania Andrus, the Special Assistant to the PM (SAPM) on Digital Pakistan, reports Dawn news.
Taking to Twitter, Mirza, the outgoing SAPM on Health, said that he had come to Pakistan on a personal invitation of Khan after leaving the World Health Organization (WHO).
“I worked hard and honestly. It was a privilege to serve Pakistan. I am satisfied that I leave at a time when COVID-19 has declined in Pakistan as a result of a grand national effort,” he said.
Mirza, who was assigned the portfolio of national health services in April 2019 and oversaw the country’s response to the pandemic, said he made the decision to resign over “negative discussion about the role of SAPMs and criticism of the government”.
He told Dawn news that there were a number of reasons behind his resignation and he had written each and everything in his resignation sent Khan.
“Basically there was ongoing criticism on unelected people by elected people and a negative impression was being built against the unelected. Moreover, I had come with a plan to carry out health reforms in Pakistan but was finding constraints.
“The system is not helpful and it is so slow and has become self-serving due to which it is difficult to work. On the other hand criticism by the elected people was further demoralizing me,” he added.
Meanwhile, Andrus said that she was resigning from her post due to recent criticism leveled against her and the government because of her dual nationality.
In a tweet, she said: “Criticism levied towards the state as a consequence of my citizenship status is clouding the purpose of Digital Pakistan.
“In the greater public interest, I have submitted my resignation from the SAPM role. I will continue to serve my country and the PM’s vision to my best ability.”
She said that her Canadian nationality, a consequence of her birth and not an acquisition of choice, served as a distraction to her ability to execute the long-term vision for a digital Pakistan.
“It is unfortunate that a Pakistani’s desire to serve Pakistan is clouded by such issues,” she was quoted as saying in the Dawn news report.
The resignations come after the government had recently gone public with the assets and nationalities of all the special assistants, bringing to light that seven of them were either held dual citizenship or permanent residency of another country, reports The Express Tribune.
The Islamabad High Court has also been moved against the appointment of dual nationals as special assistants.
Another petition was filed in the Lahore High Court against the appointment of unelected individuals as advisers and special assistants.