Pak PM Shehbaz Sharif’s Cabinet takes oath after several days of delay

PTI, Apr 20, 2022, 8:36 AM IST

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s 34-member Cabinet – a mix of experience and fresh blood – was sworn in on Tuesday after several days of delay, with Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani administering the oath to new ministers after President Arif Alvi once again excused himself from the ceremony.

While the key Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been kept vacant, the defence portfolio was given to Khawaja Asif while Rana Sanaullah was made the new interior minister. Hina Rabbani Khar has been made the minister of state for foreign affairs. She had occupied the same post in 2011 at the age of 33, becoming the youngest person and the first woman to have held the position. Abdul Qadir Patel was appointed as the new health minister. \R The ceremony was scheduled to be held on Monday, but President Alvi refused to administer the oath to the lawmakers, compelling the government to postpone it.

The Cabinet includes 31 ministers and three ministers of the state and its first meeting has been summoned in the evening by Prime Minister Sharif.

The new Cabinet is a mix of experience and fresh blood cobbled up together after stiff tradeoffs behind the closed-door meetings of the coalition partners of Sharif, also president of the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N).

His PML-N got 13 ministries and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) got nine. Four ministries were over to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and two to Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).

Other coalition partners including Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Jamhori Watan Party (JWP) got one ministry each. Out of the three ministers of the state, two belong to PML-N and one to PPP.

Three special advisors with the status of a minister have also been nominated. Amir Muqam belongs to PML-N, Qamar Zaman Kaira to PPP and Aun Chaudhry is associated with a breakaway faction of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of former prime minister Imran Khan. Chaudhry was an active supporter of Khan but later on parted ways with him to join the dissidents.

Kaira, who belongs to the Kharian area of Punjab province, is likely to serve as PM Advisor on the Affairs of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

While several old faces have been given another chance to serve as federal ministers, at least 20 ministers are the first-timers in the federal cabinet.

However, the most keenly awaited debutant Bilawal, chairman of the PPP, has not taken oath. He was the front-runner for the coveted post of foreign minister. Sources in his PPP said that Bilwal would eventually join the Cabinet but would take oath during its expansion.

Another first timer is Abdul Qadir Patel, a vocal member of PPP from Karachi who was 25 when first time elected as member of Sindh provincial assembly in 1993. He was first time elected as a member of the national assembly in 2008. He has been known as a fierce critic of Khan and his party in the current Parliament.

Another prominent first timer is Asad Mahmood, son of Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI-F. Similarly, Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti became a federal minister for the first time. He is a grandson of slain Baloch tribal leader Nawaz Akbar Khan Bugti.

The gender mix of the cabinet is not well balanced, as only five women ministers have been sworn in, including three full ministers – Marriyum Aurangzeb, Sherry Rehman, Shazia Marri – and two ministers of the state – Aisha Ghous Pasha and Hina Rabbani Khar.

Marriyum Aurangzeb and Aisha Ghous Pasha belong to PML-N while Sherry Rehman, Shazia Marri and Hina Rabbani Khar are from PPP.

Khar served as foreign minister during the region of PPP from 2011 and 2013. She was then 33, the youngest person and the first woman to have held the position. She is again likely to get the same ministry but as a junior minister.

Complete portfolios of the new ministers have not been announced but official sources said that Miftah Ismail has been given the key ministry of finance. He is not a member of parliament and can serve for six month in the post and should be elected as a member in this period to retain the post.

The formation of the cabinet was delayed for eight days, stalling the working of the government. As per Article 90 of the Constitution, the executive authority of the federation is exercised by the federal government, consisting of the prime minister and the federal ministers.

As per Article 92 (1) the total strength of the cabinet should not exceed 11% of the total membership of parliament – the Senate and the National Assembly. It means the federal cabinet including ministers and ministers of state cannot exceed 49 members.

In addition to this, under Article 93 of the Constitution, the prime minister can appoint a maximum of five advisors. However, there is no constitutional limit to the number of special assistants the premier can appoint.

Former prime minister Khan had a cabinet of 29 ministers on April 9 when he was ousted after a no-confidence motion against him was passed by the House. They included 25 ministers and four ministers of state. However, he also had four advisers and 19 special assistants.

Shehbaz’s PML-N has only 86 seats and the rest of numerical support has come from the coalition partners who apparently have nothing in common except their rivalry for Khan, and it will be a big challenge for him to keep them calm and satisfied.

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