New cabinet raises many eyebrows


ISLAMABAD: While President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s decision to ignore Qamar Zaman Kaira and Nazar Mohammad Gondal have raised many eyebrows, the decision not to reappoint Shah Mehmood Qureshi the foreign minister has come as a major surprise and reappointment of seventeen already tried and tested individuals explicitly suggests that this is a cosmetic change that will seemingly not work miracles for the crises-ridden government.
While the size of the new cabinet is expected to remain small as compared to the previous, it will, however, turn out to be a team of at least 30 members as the prime minister has not allocated the portfolios of eight, some of them critically important, ministries keeping them under his control. This also exposes the intrinsic weakness of the largest political party that it suffers from a crisis of quality human resource.
The objective to reduce the size of the cabinet by inducting “lean and mean” individuals with the reputation of integrity and competence also does not appear to have been achieved with mostly the same people again making their way into the cabinet. Integrity was certainly not the criterion to form a new team as the idea of making it a “lean, mean and clean’ instead of just ‘lean and mean’ cabinet had been rubbished by President Asif Zardari at the PPP’s CEC meeting and competence was also not the factor to determine who will get what.
A source told Pakistan Today that President Asif Zardari was unhappy with Qureshi over the lack of support by the foreign ministry during his controversial tours of France and United Kingdom last year, while the country was faced with massive floods while the mishandling of Raymond Davis issue also caught the ire of the presidency.
“The displeasure of Asif Zardari was also reflective of the fact that Qureshi was ignored during the recent visit of the president to the US. Since there was so much backing from the US administration towards Qureshi, Zardari might have ignored Qureshi to cut him to size and for the very reason, it was decided that Qureshi would be given water and power ministry,” said the source.
Qamar Zaman Kaira was dropped in the first phase of the cabinet formation, as Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar had already been chosen for the cabinet slot from Gujrat district. In its last meeting, the PPP central executive committee (CEC) had been told by the prime minister that only one minister would be picked from each district.
Ignoring Raja Parvez Ashraf, however, was a major surprise for PPP leaders, as other ministers facing the same charges have been re-inducted. A party’s member of the National Assembly said the ouster of Ashraf was not over allegations of corruption.
“Look, if Ashraf has been removed on allegations of corruption or incompetence, why have Makhdoom Amin Faheem, Rehman Malik and Babar Awan been included in the new cabinet,” the MNA argued.
Nazar Muhammad Gondal, another dropout, has been ignored due to the displeasure expressed by President Zardari towards him for unknown reasons. Talking to Pakistan Today, Gondal said he had been dropped on the decision of the party’s central command “and I accept the decision as it must have been taken in national interest”.
Another party MNA expressed shock over the induction of Firdous Ashiq Awan to the new cabinet, as in his opinion, she was a newcomer in the party and had no history of sacrifices for the PPP.
Arbab Alamgir has been picked from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Prior to his induction, his wife Asma Arbab was being picked as a minister. However, Arbab later asked her to sacrifice for him and the family matter was resolved with Arbab being made a minister.
The source said FATA MNAs had been asked to nominate one legislator for a ministerial slot. However, the FATA MNAs decided to hold a draw and eventually Shaukatullah’s name was finalized by Munir Orakzai through a draw, the source added.