Imran Khan Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman and prime minister in-waiting Imran Khan’s decision to live in a smaller, simpler residence and not in the official Prime Minister’s House will save the exorbitant amount of Pakistani Rs1.85 billion spent annually on the PM House.

It will also send a positive message to the masses that their prime minister is not wasting public money on a life of luxuries and protocol.

Khan has, in a number of interviews and press conferences, made it clear that he will neither stay in the PM House nor enjoy VVIP protocol after assuming office.

The cricketer-turned politician has also vowed to ensure that his ministers and provincial chief ministers, where his party is in power, also follow principles austerity.

Pakistan’s PM House, though a relatively new building inaugurated by the former deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif only two decades ago when he was elected for a second term, is located on the main Constitution Avenue, covering an area of 135 acres, and luxuriously appointed.

The red-brick, heavily guarded building is modelled after the Mughal era palaces that housed royalty. The PM House features five spacious lawns, a fruit orchard, a number of swimming pools, a banquet hall, media and committee rooms. There are also 10 servants quarters, residences for security officers, staff and members of the Public & Works Department and police.

Inside the PM House, around 50 protocol officers work in their offices.

The security budget of the complex is around Rs980 million, while Rs700 million are allocated for PM House staff. Similarly, Rs150 million is spent annually on gifts for visiting dignitaries and guests, and Rs15 million on renovation and decoration.

According to the PTI leadership, four universities equalling the area of Pakistan’s top varsity — Quaid-e-Azam University (spread over 35 acres in the capital) — can be set up in the PM House.

Khan has, instead, indicated that he will utilise the PM House land for publicly beneficial purposes, such as education or health.

The PTI leader, in his post-election victory speech had stated his intention to set up house in the Minister’s Enclave rather than PM House. Later, it was also suggested that he should opt for the Speaker’s House instead of Minister’s Enclave.

Even as a final decision is yet to be made, one thing is clear: Khan’s decision to eschew PM House will show the people that he means to keep his word.