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PM Abbasi’s bloated cabinet sworn in

August 05, 2017

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PRESIDENT Mamnoon Hussain administering the oath of office to federal ministers at Aiwan-i-Sadr on Friday.
—Online
PRESIDENT Mamnoon Hussain administering the oath of office to federal ministers at Aiwan-i-Sadr on Friday. —Online

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday formed a 43-member cabinet with 27 federal ministers and 16 ministers of state, besides creating five new ministries and their divisions.

Some changes have been made in the cabinet with induction of new faces, while former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan did not become a part of the new prime minister’s team, as he had already announced.

Mr Abbasi ordered that federal ministers and secretaries of their ministries would not travel abroad at the same time and would have to inform his office prior to going on foreign visits.

Federal ministers, secretaries barred from leaving country simultaneously

President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath to 43 cabinet members at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Abbasi, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, PM’s Personal Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad, diplomats and senior bureaucrats.

Following the oath-taking ceremony, the prime minister chaired the first meeting of his cabinet and made some important decisions.

Portfolios have so far been awarded to 39 cabinet members — 26 federal ministers and 13 ministers of state.

The new cabinet is bigger than the last one, which had 36 members.

According to the 18th Constitution Amend­ment, the size of the federal cabinet should be not more than 11 per cent of the total strength of the National Assembly and Senate, which means that the maximum number is 47, not leaving much choice for the new prime minister for further inductions.

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) managed to get two federal ministries in the new cabinet against one in the last. Maulana Ameer Zaman is the second leader of the party inducted into the cabinet with the Ministry of Postal Services. Akram Khan Durrani is the Housing Minister.

Absence of Daniyal Aziz in the ceremony was noticed as his name was on the list of ministers of state issued by the presidency. It was learnt that he was eyeing a full ministry and did not agree to accept the slot of Minister of State for Kashmir Affairs offered to him.

The name of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar was replaced with Sardar Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari. The earlier official list carried the name of Mr Tarar, but not Mr Leghari’s. However, the oath as a member of the cabinet was taken by Mr Leghari. Mr Tarar was offered the Ministry of Science and Technology but, according to the notification issued later, his name was not in the list of ministers. He told Dawn that he had declined the ministry offered to him.

It is believed that Mr Leghari’s name was included in a bid to have a stronghold of the N-League in south Punjab by securing more seats of the National Assembly from the region in the general elections scheduled next year.

In the 43-member cabinet, 11 belong to south Punjab — Awais Leghari, Syed Javed Ali Shah, Muhammad Baleeghur Rehman, Riaz Hussain Pirzada and Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan as federal ministers and Abdul Rehman Khan Kanju, Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, Haji Muhammad Akram Ansari, Sardar Muhammad Arshad Khan Leghari and Muhammad Junaid Anwar Chaudhry as ministers of state.

Although no official list of cabinet members with their portfolios was issued, it was available on the official website of the National Assembly.

According to the list, Ishaq Dar, who has become quite controversial after the Supreme Court sent his case to the National Accountability Bureau for being involved in the Panama Papers case, retained his office as Finance Minister.

Khawaja Asif, who served as defence minister in ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet, became Foreign Minister. He is the first foreign minister in this government as the ministry was earlier overseen by Mr Sharif.

Ahsan Iqbal took the oath as Interior Minister and his previous ministry — planning and development — will work directly under the prime minister.

Mushahidullah Khan, who had been removed from the federal cabinet by Mr Sharif over his controversial remarks against the military establishment, rejoined the cabinet as federal Minister for Climate Change.

Khurram Dastgir was given the ministry of defence and was replaced by Pervez Malik as Commerce Minister.

Baleeghur Rehman, who was the minister of state for interior and education in the last cabinet, was elevated as federal Education Minister.

A newcomer in the cabinet, Hafiz Abdul Kareem, was given the portfolio of communications ministry and retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch retained the ministry of States and Frontier Regions.

Sheikh Aftab and Akram Durrani also retained their ministries of parliamentary affairs and housing, respectively. Rana Tanvir Hussain will serve the Defence Production Minister.

Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi will look after the ministry of industries and production and Riaz Pirzada will hold his previous ministry of inter-provincial coordination.

PML-N legal wizard Zahid Hamid will remain law minister, while Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo and Khawaja Saad Rafiq will retain the ministries of posts and shipping and railways. Sardar Muhammad Yousuf will continue Religious Affairs Minister.

Saira Afzal Tarar, who was minister of state for national health services and coordination in the last cabinet, wads made federal minister Marriyum Aurangzeb was given her previous assignment of Minister of State for Information and Tariq Fazal Chaudhry of Minister of State for Capital Administration and Development.

Shahnawaz Ranjha, a former parliamentary secretary, was made a minister of state.

Talal Chaudhry, another new induction, was appointed Minister of State for Interior.

During the first cabinet meeting, Mr Abbasi issued several directives to the ministers regarding the functioning of their ministries.

He said the federal ministers may not seek permission for travel abroad only if the visit was required in the line of the performance of their duties related to their ministries and divisions. He said the ministers should inform the Prime Minister Office about the dates on which their official travel was required.

He said the ministers would have full authority for allowing the ministers of state and all officers working in their ministries, divisions, attached departments and autonomous bodies under their control, but as a matter of policy, a federal minister and secretary should not travel at the same time unless absolutely necessary, in which case the prime minister should be informed in advance.

Mr Abbasi asked all the ministers to work diligently and complete all ongoing projects on top priority with utmost transparency and quality of work.

New ministries, vacancies

The prime minister formed five new ministries of narcotics, privatisation, statistics, water resource and postal service. Earlier these divisions were working with other ministries.

Also, with the appointment of parliamentary secretaries Talal Chaudhry and Mohsin Ranjha as ministers of state, their previous posts became vacant. Now the government has to appoint new parliamentary secretaries.

With the induction into the cabinet of four chairmen of NA standing committees, these posts also fell vacant. Awais Leghari was chairman of the standing committee on foreign affairs, Hafiz Abdul Karim religious affairs, Arshad Leghari water and power and Junaid Chaudhry rules and procedure.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2017