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Khoso taking time in naming his cabinet

March 29, 2013

Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, the caretaker Pakistani Prime Minister, speaks with media representatives in Islamabad on March 24, 2013. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: It has been four days since caretaker Prime Minister retired Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso  took oath, but he has not appointed his cabinet as yet.

His only remarks on the issue have been that the cabinet would not comprise more than 10 to 12 members. However, since then, the prime minister’s secretariat is keeping a mysterious mum on the appointment of the interim federal cabinet.

The press secretary to the prime minister, Shafqat Jalil, said names for the cabinet would be finalised “shortly”.

“This is what I have been told by the prime minister.” When pressed, Mr Jalil said he must be talking to people of his trust on the probable cabinet names, but so far there was no official announcement to make to this effect.

A senior government official said so far the prime minister had only made it known that members of the cabinet would be from all the provinces and people with good reputation.

The tentative names for the cabinet doing the rounds in the media were just based on speculations, he said.

He said it would be premature to comment whether the prime minister was going to appoint ministers of his own choice, or those recommended by others, but things would become clear in a day or two.

“Frankly speaking, Mir Hazar Khan Khoso is very cagey. So far he has only listened to people who have met him and hasn’t spoken much. He is turning out to be a very good listener,” the official said.

Since March 25, when Justice Khoso was administered oath by President Asif Ali Zardari, his only significant engagements have been a couple of meetings with Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Federal secretaries have briefed him on the working of their ministries.

Talking to Dawn, one of the secretaries said: “I have found him a typical judge who only listens and takes note.” The secretary said as far as his information was concerned, the prime minister was facing difficulty in picking his finance minister.

“With the Federal Board of Revenue missing targets and the government virtually running on loans, Mr Khoso is in a bind about the appointment of his finance minister,” the official said, adding that due to the weak economic indicators, the entire budget making exercise was in jeopardy.

During a briefing, the finance ministry officials painted a very bleak picture, making the caretaker prime minister cautious in selecting a finance minister who could be tasked with a challenge of handling the economy for a couple of months.

If everything went well and elections were held on May 11, the next government would take charge by the time the preparation of the federal budget should be in its final stages. “Justice Khoso needs an able hand at the finance ministry for this task,” the secretary added.

“Of course, the next government can bring in changes in the federal budget before it is finally passed by the National Assembly before June 30, but the basic document has to be prepared over the next couple of months.”

Talking to Dawn, a retired judge of the Supreme Court said how can a judge who spent his entire life dealing with the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) know about economy, energy and national security. It is unfortunate that judges have been given the task to run the interim government — a totally different ballgame for them. “I am not surprised if Justice Khoso is taking time in appointing his caretaker set-up”, he said.