Maximum interests, constituencies and regions appeased
The newly anointed Prime Minister must be heaving a sigh of relief, first at the formation of his cabinet after hectic computations and permutations, and second at the thought that his predecessor will be hightailing it to Lahore on Sunday, allowing him to end his daily visits to the ‘galliat’. He will be assisted by a ministerial horde of 47 members, including 28 federal ministers and 19 ministers of state, clearly chosen with an eye on the 2018 elections, by making concessions to previously ignored areas and accommodating powerful groups in South Punjab and elsewhere. But a huge question mark still hangs over the entire exercise, depending on the future political course adopted by Shahbaz Sharif. If the Khadim-e-Ala contests NA-120 on September 17, the incumbent PM’s and possibly his cabinet’s stature and role will be diminished to that of a ‘lame-duck’, a revolving- door rule restricted to just 45 days. But this still lies in the realm of the unknown, as joint family politics, gives rise to its own complications, apprehensions and hurdles.
Loyalty of course remains the qualification-in-chief for ministerial appointments, especially in our political environment. All the faithful are represented, with some shuffling of the musical chairs. The biggest absence is the former Interior Minister, who was (willingly?) without a chair when the music stopped, his place being occupied by Ahsan Iqbal. A controversial inclusion is Ishaq Dar, who retains Finance, despite the criminal references being filed against him on Supreme Court orders. A welcome addition is the first Foreign Minister since 2013, though the prize spot goes to the somewhat undiplomatic, even abrasive Khawaja Asif. His replacement as Defence Minister is the articulate Khurram Dastagir, while the PM will head a combined Ministry of Petroleum and Power, apart from holding the Planning Ministry. One wonders who will monitor and coordinate the all-important CPEC projects. Saad Rafique seems to have an unwelcome monopoly on Railways. New faces include Pervez Malik (Commerce), Talal Chaudhry and the desperate Daniyal Aziz, though there are conflicting reports about him, as ever.