LAHORE– Retaining provincial health ministry among others, Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has relinquished eight ministries which he has devolved to other cabinet members, assistants and advisors without appointing any new minister. The chief minister has also changed portfolios of the ministers. Shahbaz has retained provincial Health Ministry defying a strong demand of the Opposition to hand it over to anyone else after over 100 lives were lost to faulty medicines supplied by a Karachi-based company.
According to spokesman of the Punjab Government, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has been given additional charge of Local Government, the Minister for Agriculture Ali Ahmad Aulakh has been given the additional portfolio of Planning, Communication and Works. Minister for Auqaf and Religious Affairs, Haji Ehsanuddin Qureshi has been entrusted with Housing and Urban Development Ministry while Senator Pervaiz Rashid has been given the portfolio of Provincial Information Ministry and the Food Minister Ch Abdul Ghafoor has been given the additional charge of Ministry of Energy. Mansha Ullah Butt, the assistant to CM, has been given the charge of Environment and Food departments and Jahanzeb Burki, an advisor to CM, has been appointed in-charge Punjab Public Prosecution. The charge of Management and Professional Development has been handed over to Saeed Mahdi.
As Senator Pervaiz Rashid does not have representation in the Punjab Assembly and according to senior jurist, Raja Salman Akram, he will need to be elected to Punjab Assembly within six months to continue with the provincial ministry after quitting the senatorship. He said the CM had the discretion to appoint a person not member of the provincial assembly, as minister but he would be required to get elected as member of the assembly within six months otherwise he would no more be a minister after that period.Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz and PML-Q leader Kamil Ali Agha have strongly criticised the chief minster’s move for not appointing any new minister for the said portfolios.
Raja said the same old inefficient persons had been entrusted additional charge. He expressed serious reservations over the inclusion of Senator Pervaiz Rashid in the provincial cabinet. Raja said as many as 14 ministries were still with the CM.Sharif, who previously held 18 portfolios, still maintains ten additional departments including Health, Home, Transport and Tourism, among others.There are a total of nine ministers in the Punjab cabinet, who are working with additional departments.After passing of the 18th Amendment, a cabinet should have 39 ministers according to the ratio of the 10 per cent formula for total members.Up to March 2011, the cabinet was running with 16 ministers, nine from Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and seven from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). After the PPP ministers quit, the cabinet was left with nine members, while the rest of the portfolios were under Sharif’s charge.Interestingly, Sharif has also been accused of violating rules and allowing advisors and assistants to attend cabinet meetings. A petition has also been moved in the Lahore High Court (LHC) against the portfolios held by the chief minister.
The petitioner states that according to the rules, the relevant minister is responsible to conduct the business relating to his department in the assembly, whereas the chief minister does not find time to attend the assembly sessions. – Nation