Missing cabinet

Published April 18, 2022

IT seems that not everything is going swimmingly for the new coalition government. After days of speculation over who the new ministers in Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s cabinet will be, we still have no names. This is quite a concerning situation considering the immediacy of the economic, political and social crises the new government has to deal with.

Indeed, it would have been expected of the experienced hands that lead the parties in the new coalition government that they would have worked out the modalities of a smooth takeover from PTI as soon as it became clear that they had the numbers behind them.

It was known ahead of time that the economy, foreign policy, militancy and political challenges would be a priority for the incoming government and would require urgent steps to fix. It would have made sense, therefore, to have key individuals prepared to take up the relevant portfolios from the get-go, as the new set-up does not have time on its side. Instead, we now have a situation where, after nearly a week of the prime minister having taken his oath, two key coalition partners are sending signals that they may be less than eager to take responsibility for how the new government must proceed with implementing its agenda.

Read: I don't think PPP will take ministries in new federal cabinet: Zardari

Meanwhile, the PTI, stinging from its unceremonious ouster from office, has been flexing its muscles with power shows in key urban support bases.

It is whipping up its supporters’ emotions by painting the new regime as the proxy of a foreign power; a government whose every decision will be tainted by its alleged obeisance to external benefactors. It is raring to go after any unpopular decision the new government may be forced to take to rectify the economic imbalances it has been handed over. Cynically, ignoring their own culpability in offering an irrational and unsustainable subsidy on fuel and electricity, the former ministers of the PTI government are already telling supporters that the new government is about to drop a petrol bomb on their heads.

In such a scenario, the PML-N led government’s hand ought to be strengthened by the parties that paved its way to power if the government is to survive. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif too needs to make quick decisions, even if they are difficult to take. He may be faced with the difficult task of keeping each of his political benefactors happy, but his foremost duty is to save the country from further economic and political turmoil.

He is widely regarded as an administrator who ‘gets the work done’, which is why many key stakeholders both within and outside the country are keeping a close eye on his ability to deliver. He must realise what is at stake if he remains unable for too long to put a team together to get the job done.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2022

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