PML-N mulling over ideas for new cabinet

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LAHORE – As the stage is set to dissolve the Punjab cabinet and push the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) out of the provincial government, influential lobbies amongst Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the unification bloc have set their sights on lucrative ministries and parliamentary secretary positions, PML-N sources told Pakistan Today on Sunday.
A PML-N leader, who wished to remain unnamed, said preparations to form the new cabinet had begun and various leaders in the party had and those close to PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had begun calling the shots in the new cabinet. “Some MPAs who were assured of accommodation in the new cabinet have also started to plead their case,” he said.
He said that discussions on whether to keep the ministers who would be relieved after the cabinet was dissolved or to bring in new faces were underway. Another option being considered, he said, was to increase the strength of ministers from 16 (present status) to 30, though rules allowed a maximum of 40 according to the 18th Amendment (which states that federal and provincial cabinets should have a strength equal to 11 percent of the total number of members of the corresponding assemblies).
Previously, he said, one minister had two to four portfolios, with some exceptions. “They were overburdened and naturally could not do justice to all ministries. There are a total of 38 ministries and this time, the option being considered is to give one minister one portfolio,” he added. The PML-N leader said another option was to fill the posts previously held by PPP members with “reliable” members of the unification bloc.
Other senior leaders said that it would be better not to give any ministry to the unification bloc to save face, and if the bloc members were patient, it would work as damage control and it would become obvious that the coalition between PML-N and the bloc was not carried out for greed and political gain. Most of the bloc’s members, they said, had also shown agreement to this suggestion to some extent.
PML-N MPA Mian Naseer told Pakistan Today that it was too early to predict anything. “Nobody knows yet the state of discussions on the formation of the new cabinet. There are 38 ministries, 16 standing committees and 14 parliamentary parties and a huge amount of work is required which cannot be done in a hurry,” he said. Mian Naseer said that the assembly session is likely to be called on March 8 and hoped that things would settle down soon.