ISLAMABAD, May 14: The days of forming large cabinets at centre and in provinces to keep everybody happy are over because of restrictions imposed by two articles inserted into the constitution by the 18th amendment, which have become effective for the first time after the May 11 elections.
The constraint will test accommodating skills of political parties which are in a position to form governments, particularly in the three smaller provinces, because they will have very little to offer to their coalition partners or will have to sacrifice key ministries to make alliances.Article 92 of the constitution says about federal cabinet: “… the total strength of the Cabinet, including Ministers of State, shall not exceed eleven per cent of the total membership of Majlis-i-Shoora (Parliament).”
After the enforcement of the article, the strength of federal cabinet cannot exceed 49 members because the total membership of parliament comes to 446 (342 MNAs and 104 senators). Since the PML-N has acquired sufficient strength to form government on its own at the centre and in Punjab, it will face no problem in forming cabinets there.
But the amendments may make the process of government formation difficult in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, according to political observers.
Article 130(6) of the constitution, which deals with the strength of provincial cabinets, says: “… the total strength of the Cabinet shall not exceed 15 members, or eleven per cent of the total membership of a provincial assembly, whichever is higher.”
According to this formula, chief ministers of Balochistan and KP can have a cabinet of 15 members at most while the size of the Sindh cabinet cannot exceed 19 members.
If the 11 per cent formula is applied, a 41-member cabinet can be formed in Punjab because its assembly has 371 members.
Political observers believe that the process of government formation in the three smaller provinces, particularly in Balochistan which always has a coalition government, has now become difficult.
Despite having the smallest assembly in terms of its strength, Balochistan has always had a large cabinet as compared to other provinces. There were more than 50 members, out of a total of 65 MPAs, in the previous cabinet, headed by Nawab Aslam Raisani.
Sindh and KP also had large cabinets because their ruling parties had to give a major share in the ministries to their coalition partners.