Pakistan: 37-member Pakistani cabinet sworn in, Bilawal is out for now – Times of India


ISLAMABAD: A 37-member federal cabinet took the oath of office in Pakistan on Tuesday, just over a week after then-opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif replaced Imran Khan as the country’s prime minister in an after midnight vote in parliament.
Hina Rabbani Khar of the PPP, who served as foreign minister from February 2011 to March 2013, was appointed foreign minister in the new government. PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who were tipped to get the Foreign and Petroleum ministries respectively, were out of the cabinet formation. PPP sources said Bilawal would take charge as the country’s finance minister in the coming days.
Khar’s presence in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, albeit in a less important role than the one she previously held, is seen as a positive development by the Indian authorities. Sources recalled her comment from a few years ago about the need for Pakistan to strengthen ties with India and other neighboring countries. She was quoted after her visit to India in 2011 that Pakistan had to accept that 26/11 was a sensitive issue for India. “She is familiar with India and comes across as a reasonable leader,” a source said.
The delay in the cabinet formation was apparently caused by weeks of deliberations to accommodate members of smaller coalition parties that played a crucial role in Imran’s removal.
President Dr Arif Alvi, who had apologized for taking the oath to Shehbaz, again skipped the event and left the tasks to Senate Speaker Sadiq Sanjrani. The swearing-in ceremony was initially scheduled for Monday, but the government postponed it due to President Alvi’s refusal to do the job.
Shehbaz’s cabinet consists of 31 federal ministers, three state ministers and three advisers to the prime minister. Of the 31 federal ministers, 13 portfolios were retained by PML-N, nine were given to PPP and the remaining 11 were distributed among the other coalition partners.
Marriyum Aurangzeb and Azam Nazir Tarar of PML-N were appointed ministers of information and law respectively.
Ahsan Iqbal, also of PML-N, became Minister for Planning and Development, while Rana Sanaullah of PML-N was put in charge of the Ministry of Interior. Miftah Ismail, who had briefly served as secretary of state in the previous PML-N government, was given the portfolio back.
Several politicians from former President Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP were included in the cabinet, including Khursheed Shah, former opposition leader in the National Assembly, and Senator Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US.
Some of the government’s allies, sources revealed, were dissatisfied with demands they made on the government regarding the division of ministries and other lucrative positions.
A day earlier, two coalition partners, the Balochistan National Party (BNP) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), had said Tuesday they would not join the cabinet. While BNP had accused the government of failing to prevent violent incidents in the province, such as the recent shooting of protesters in Balochistan, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman demanded immediate elections. It was believed that de Maulana was annoyed by his demands regarding the division of ministries and that some constitutional posts were not being met.
The introduction of four federal ministers from JUI-F indicates that de Maulana agreed to join the cabinet at the last minute.
Former Prime Minister Imran was ousted after being abandoned by his party’s allies and a key coalition partner earlier this month. Since then, Imran has demanded new elections at every meeting, saying the new government was imposed on Pakistan as part of a US conspiracy, a charge Washington has denied. The new government has called Imran’s claim a “pack of lies”.

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