In politics, charity begins at home

Cabnit Meeting

ISLAMABAD: In an apparent bid to win back the support of estranged Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) parliamentarians, PPP Co-chairman President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday administered oath to eleven new ministers, including five federal ministers and six ministers of state to the already beefy federal cabinet.

This was another important development in the wake of rising temperatures between the government and the judiciary, as the government changed its legal team only a day before. The two main characters of the PCO saga were given representation by the government, as Irfan Qadir and Yasmin Abbasi were appointed attorney general and law secretary, respectively.

The new inductions will bring the number of federal ministers to 37, while the number of state ministers has now reached 14. With five advisers and as many special assistants, the cabinet’s size has gone up to 61, in violation of the 18th constitutional amendment.However, the move triggered a new controversy as the PPP leadership did not consult its two coalition partners — the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP) – prior to inducting new ministers, sources said.Only one state minister, Raheela Baloch, who was elected from Balochistan, was picked from a coalition partner, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) after the resignation by Amir Muqam, who joined the PML-Nawaz.

The oath-taking was held at the presidency and was attended by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, cabinet members, parliamentarians and senior officials.Those who were administered oath as federal ministers included Qamar Zaman Kaira, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Nazar Mohammad Gondal, Rana Farooq Saeed Khan and Farzana Raja.The ministers of state include Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan, Raheela Baloch, Abbas Khan Afridi, Tasneem Qureshi, Malik Azmat Khan and Syed Sumsam Ali Bokhari.The re-induction of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as federal minister might further ignite tensions between the superior judiciary and the government, as he had been deprived of his ministerial berth in the wake of rental power projects (RPPs) scam.

He was also declared responsible for “corrupt practices” in the RPPs case by the apex court, as the allegations were fully backed by PML-Q Parliamentary Leader Faisal Saleh Hayat.The heat between Ashraf and Hayat is likely to rise when both will attend the cabinet meeting. The newly-inducted cabinet members are mainly those ministers who had been sent home in the previous cabinet reshuffle in the name of “austerity”, a manoeuvre done by PM Gilani to claim that his government had cut the size of the cabinet “strictly in line with the 18th Amendment”.

Although there was no official word about the portfolios of the newly-inducted ministers, Qamar Zaman Kaira is likely to replace Firdous Ashiq Awan as Information Minister, while Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar might be given the portfolio of Minister for Water and Power. Moreover, Maula Bakhsh Chandio is likely to be appointed as the minister for human rights, while Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is expected to get an important ministry. – PT