ISLAMABAD: The expanding cabinet of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was further reinforced on Tuesday after the reappointment of five special assistants who also served under former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The five men inducted into the cabinet on Tuesday are Barrister Zafarullah Khan, Mussadik Malik, Asif Kirmani, Miftah Ismail and Khawaja Zaheer Ahmed.

Following the latest appointments, the total strength of the federal cabinet has reached 58, despite the fact that under the 18th amendment, the maximum size of the cabinet should be 11pc of the total number of seats in the National Assembly (342) and Senate (104), which comes to 49.

According to Article 91 of the Constitution, the prime minister can appoint up to five advisers, but the Constitution is silent on the number of special assistants allowed.

The size of PM Abbasi’s cabinet is larger than Nawaz Sharif’s, which had three dozen members. But this is still not even the largest cabinet in recent history — former prime minister Shaukat Aziz’s cabinet had over 70 members, while ex-PM Yousuf Raza Gillani worked with an over 60-man cabinet.

Two days ago, the prime minister appointed six advisers: Sartaj Aziz (as deputy chairman of the Planning Commission with the status of a federal minister), Amir Muqam, Irfan Siddiqui, Nasir Janjua (as national security adviser), Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan and Jam Mashooq.

Nearly all members of the Nawaz Sharif cabinet have regained their previous positions, with the notable exception of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who refused to join the new set-up due to some reservations.

Some new faces have also been inducted, including Daniyal Aziz, Talal Chaudhry, Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha and Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari, etc.

In a recent TV interview, PM Abbasi explained the reason behind such a large federal cabinet, saying that he had limited experience of running the affairs of the government, and therefore required more ministers, advisers and special assistants.

“Nawaz Sharif had more than 30 years experience of running a government, which is why he could manage with a smaller cabinet. Being a new prime minister, I need more ministers to assist me,” he had said.

Now, the federal cabinet includes 29 full federal ministers, 18 ministers of state, five advisers to the PM along with the head of the Planning Commission, and five special assistants.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2017