ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday “almost half-heartedly” administered the oath to three federal ministers and a state minister, as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expanded his cabinet, increasing the number of its members to 40.

On the other hand, the European Commission felicitated Prime Minister Sharif for assuming charge of his office and emphasised the need for strengthening relations between the two sides.

It was surprising for many that President Alvi agreed to administer the oath to the four new members of the federal cabinet, as earlier he had refused to perform this duty twice in the recent past — at the time of Prime Minister Sharif’s oath-taking and then for the 33-member cabinet on Tuesday. This time, the Presidency also issued an official photograph of the event, which was skipped on the last two occasions.

The federal ministers who took oath on Friday included Chaudhry Salik Hussain, Mian Javaid Latif and Agha Hassan Baloch. Balochistan National Party’s (BNP) Hashim Notezai was sworn in as the state minister.

Prime Minister Sharif witnessed the oath ceremony held at the Presidency.

Appearing bored, the president’s body language indicated he was not interested in carrying out his constitutional duty. Whereas, the PM also seemed to be ignoring the president during the oath-taking. The ceremony was also witnessed by some legislators and senior bureaucrats.

In the first phase of the cabinet formation, the BNP had abstained from becoming a part of it in protest against a recent incident of firing of security forces on protesters in Chagai. However, on Friday, two members of the party took oath -- Agha Hassan and Hashim Notezai.

Another significant aspect of the oath ceremony was a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) Chaudhry Salik Hussain, son of veteran politician Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, joining the cabinet. This also confirmed the rifts within the party that is now clearly divided into two camps -- one being headed by Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and the other by his cousin Chaudhry Shujaat.

While taking the oath, the cabinet members made a solemn pledge “to bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan, discharge duties honestly to the best of ability and faithfully in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the law”.

“I will strive to preserve the Islamic ideology, which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan. That I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions,” said the new ministers while chorus-reading the text of the official oath.

Earlier on April 19, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had sworn in the 33-member cabinet of PM Sharif.

EC chief telephones PM

Later, Prime Minister Sharif received a telephone call from the president of the European Commission (EC), Ms Ursula von der Leyen.

Ms Leyen congratulated Mr Sharif on assuming the office of prime minister and underlined the commission’s desire to further strengthen its bilateral relationship with Pakistan.

The prime minister expressed his gratitude for the felicitations, and said Pakistan greatly valued its relations with the European Union, which were based on shared values and common objectives of peace, prosperity and development.

He highlighted the importance of closer trade and investment ties between Pakistan and the EU.

Mr Sharif appreciated the GSP Plus arrangement and underlined that, being a mutually beneficial scheme, it had played an important role in the expansion of Pakistan-EU trade.

The prime minister lauded Ms Leyen’s stewardship of the EU Commission and underscored his resolve to further deepen mutual engagement. He also extended a cordial invitation to the EC president.

The two leaders agreed to stay in contact and work together to expand the Pakistan-EU relations, intensify investment and trade cooperation, and enhance mutual cooperation between the two sides in diverse fields.

PM meets MQM chief

Meanwhile, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui called on PM Sharif and discussed the political situation in the country.

The prime minister highlighted that everyone needed to work together to solve the problems facing the country. He said it was the need of the hour to go beyond political interests, and provide relief to the people.

MNA Dr Siddiqui assured the prime minister of the MQM’s full support in this regard.

The MQM, being a part of an alliance against the previous regime of Imran Khan, has already acquired two federal ministries in the newly formed federal cabinet.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2022

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