All you need to know about the new faces in PM Shehbaz’s 19-member cabinet

The cabinet sees the all-important finance seat occupied by an unfamiliar face in Aurangzeb, while Tarar becomes the new voice of PML-N govt.
Published March 12, 2024

Putting to rest speculation and conjecture, Prime Minister Shehbaz’s 19-member cabinet was sworn in on Monday, exactly a week after the premier took over the top office again.

It was reported that Shehbaz held marathon meetings over the weekend, which continued into late Sunday night, to finalise the names of his new ministers.

When it was finally announced, the cabinet sported a mix of youth and experienced, with only one woman on board. There were a couple of surprises in the allocation of portfolios, as Ishaq Dar was named the foreign minister instead of his favoured role in the finance ministry.

Here’s a quick glance at the fresh faces inducted into the new federal cabinet:

Muhammad Aurangzeb

Muhammad Aurangzeb, chief executive officer of Habib Bank Ltd (HBL), has been picked for the top position of PM Shehbaz’s finance team. He replaces the candidate the PML-N has usually favoured for the portfolio, Ishaq Dar.

Aurangzeb, who has served as the CEO of JP Morgan’s Global Corporate Bank based in Asia, has extensive experience working with global markets. He was also the chairman of the Pakistan Banks Association and director of the Pakistan Business Council.

He is the third banker to hold the position of finance minister, after Shaukat Aziz and Shaukat Tarin. Aurangzeb’s appointment was the highlight of the oath-taking ceremony yesterday as it drew a large audience.

Atta Tarar

The portfolio of Information and Broadcasting has been rightfully given to one of the PML-N’s most outspoken leaders, Atta Tarar. In the last few months, he has been holding frequent media interactions critical of PTI founder Imran Khan following the May 9 riots.

During the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s tenure, the coveted slot was assigned to Marriyum Aurangzeb. But this time around, she has been sent to Punjab, particularly to assist Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz. Hence, Tarar gets the nod.

Also the deputy secretary general of the PML-N, Tarar previously served as the special assistant to the prime minister on interior and was appointed home minister of Punjab in the short-lived cabinet of Hamza Shehbaz. He holds an LLB (Hons) degree from the University of London and is the grandson of Pakistan’s ninth president, Muhammad Rafiq Tarar.

Aleem Khan

Once a key member of the PTI, Aleem Khan has been assigned the portfolio of Privatisation and Board of Investment.

Aleem is a property tycoon, businessman and president of the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party — a splinter faction of PTI loyalists who coalesced around Jahangir Tareen in the wake of the May 9 violence.

He served as a member of the Punjab Assembly from 2003 to 2007, during which time he was appointed the minister for information technology. In 2018, he served as the minister for local government and community development in Punjab.

Awais Leghari

A PML-N stalwart, Awais Leghari was born and raised in Lahore and has an extensive political background.

He served as the finance and revenue minister in Punjab from April to July 2022. Earlier, in 2017-2018, he served as the power minister in former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s cabinet.

He was later appointed the secretary general of the Nawaz-led party’s Punjab chapter. In PM Shehbaz’s cabinet, Leghari has been assigned the portfolio of the Railways.

Qaiser Sheikh

Included in the cabinet for the first time, three-time MNA Qaiser Sheikh has been given the portfolio of maritime affairs.

A veteran lawmaker and businessman from Chiniot, Sheikh served as the president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce from 1987 to 1988. He also served as chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance for multiple years.

He does not shy away from openly criticising his own party and its policies. Last year, he volunteered to replace Dar as the finance minister, saying that the then government had failed to revive the economy, and curb inflation and unemployment as per their promise to the people.

Shaza Fatima Khwaja

The lone woman in the cabinet, Minister of State Shaza Fatima Khwaja, has been assigned the portfolio of information technology.

Shaza, a relatively younger face in Shehbaz’s team, is Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s niece. She previously served Shehbaz as special assistant to the prime minister on youth affairs during his first term in office.

In 2017, she had served as the parliamentary secretary for the commerce ministry as well as vice president of the National Assembly’s Young Parliamentarians Forum.

Jam Kamal Khan

While the federal cabinet is flooded with faces from Punjab, it also has a minister from Balochistan: Jamal Kamal Khan, who has been given the commerce portfolio.

Kamal, associated with the Balochistan Awami Party, previously served as the chief minister of the southern province. However, he later resigned from the post to avoid a no-confidence movement.

Kamal’s affiliation with the PML-N goes a long way. He served as petroleum minister in Nawaz’s cabinet from 2013 to 2017 and again from August 2017 to March 2018 in Abbasi’s team.

Chaudhry Salik Hussain

PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat’s son Chaudhry Salik Hussain, who won the February 8 general elections against his aunt Qaisera Elahi, is in charge of the overseas portfolio.

He was a member of Shehbaz’s cabinet in 2022 as well but served without a portfolio for nearly three weeks before finally being given the ministry of investment board.

Old faces

Chief among other old faces making a comeback in Shehbaz’s cabinet are PML-N stalwarts Khawaja Asif (defence, defence production and aviation), Ahsan Iqbal (planning, development and special initiatives), Azam Nazeer Tarar (law, justice and human rights), Musadik Malik (petroleum and power), Riaz Hussain Pirzada (housing and works) and Rana Tanveer Hussain (industries and production).

Two members of the erstwhile caretaker setup, former Punjab CM Mohsin Naqvi (interior and narcotics control) and former minister Ahad Cheema (economic affairs and establishment division) have also been accommodated.

The lone member from Sindh is MQM-P leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, who has been assigned the portfolio of science, technology, federal education and professional training.

Meanwhile, PML-N’s KP leader Amir Muqam has been handed states and frontier regions, with additional charge of national heritage and culture.