Allies ‘not pleased’ as new cabinet sworn in

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday finally formed a 33-member federal cabinet, albeit not without some bitterness among the ruling alliance.

And as expected, President Dr Arif Alvi did not administer oath to the members of the new cabinet and the constitutional duty was performed by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

Although the oath was taken by 33 lawmakers, a notification issued by the Cabinet Division carried the names of 26 federal ministers and two ministers of state. Besides, the prime minister has also appointed three advisers.

A source in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) told Dawn that portfolios of five members of the cabinet, hailing from the PML-N, were still under consideration. They were Khurram Dastgir Khan, Abdul Rehman Kanju, Riaz Pirzada, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Murtaza Javed Abbasi.

Some have hailed the cabinet as the “best possible” in terms of the selection of its members that include two PhDs on finance — Dr Miftah Ismail and Dr Aisha Ghaus-Pasha. However, the two main parties of the ruling coalition — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — are at odds over the selection of their members for the cabinet and distribution of portfolios.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif congratulated his cabinet members, urging them to work hard for the betterment of the people, and called the first meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday (today).

“The federal cabinet was formed after thorough consultations with PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and the government’s coalition allies,” the prime minister said in a tweet.

“It is my fervent hope that federal ministers, ministers of state and advisers will provide leadership, and resolve the problems of the people. Work, work and only work is our motto,” he tweeted further.

However, a source in the PML-N told Dawn that there was a divide within the party over the selection of cabinet members and distribution of portfolios among them. He said PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz was “unhappy” with the PM for not considering names of veteran party leaders, who have a close and long association with the party’s supreme leader Nawaz, who is presently in self-exile in the UK.

The source also said the PM had included only one member of the so-called Nawaz camp — Javed Latif, who did not take oath on Tuesday. He said Prime Minister Sharif’s motto, “the right person for the right job”, was not evident from the selection of cabinet members, as Nawaz’s close aides have apparently been sidelined, including Irfan Siddiqui, Pervaiz Rashid, Muhammad Zubair, Daniyal Aziz, Musaddiq Malik, Talal Chaudhry, Birjees Tahir, Tariq Fatemi and Zafarullah Khan.

The Nawaz Sharif camp of PML-N believes Mr Siddiqui, who has over 25 years of experience in the field of education, was ignored and Rana Tanveer given the education portfolio.

Moreover, putting rumours to rest, for now, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari did not join the cabinet. Similarly, another PPP leader, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, who was to be made a minister of state, reportedly refused the office for not being given a federal ministry and preferring junior party leaders over him.

PPP sources said Mr Bilawal was scheduled to leave for the UK on Tuesday night and was likely to meet Nawaz Sharif in London to express reservations of his party and other allies about the formation of the federal cabinet. The PPP is also eyeing two constitutional offices — the president and Punjab governor.

The PPP sources further said the party leadership was upset over the selection of lawmakers and ignoring allies like Balochistan National Party (BNP), Balochistan Awami Party and Awami National Party, who had been given guarantees by PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari about their due share in the government.

Interestingly, the ANP and independent MNA Mohsin Dawar did not find any spots in the federal cabinet apparently after JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman opposed their inclusion.

However, a couple of days ago, Mr Zardari had explained to Mr Rehman that he (Asif Zardari) was a “guarantor” in the opposition alliance and had promised the ANP and Mr Dawar a ministry each for their contribution to the efforts to topple the previous PTI government.

On the other hand, the BNP refused to become a part of the cabinet in protest against the alleged firing of security forces on protesters in Chagai last week.