ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari administered oaths of office to the first batch of a trimmed 22-member cabinet on Friday.
The new cabinet comprised mostly of the same faces dominating the previous cabinet, except for three newcomers, two from Balochistan. Some of the names, which were unable to appear on the rolls, were surprising.
According to the new work plan, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will, for the time being, look after the affairs of eight ministries, including water and power, human rights, information technology and telecommunication, defence production, petroleum and natural resources, overseas pakistanis, ports and shipping and housing and works.
The oaths were administered a day after the president accepted resignations of over 60 ministers, including 38 federal and 18 state ministers and two advisers and two special assistants to the prime minister.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who held the important portfolio of foreign minister in the previous cabinet, declined to take oath: he was offered some other ministry because of “differences” over the Raymond Davis issue.
Hina Rabbani Khar, the former state minister for economic affairs, was given the assignment of junior minister of foreign affairs.
Qureshi was reportedly at odds with some party leaders on statements of interior minister Rehman Malik on the issue of Raymond Davis.
Some PPP insiders believe his omission may be a precursor to key changes within the party ranks.
Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nazar Gondal, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali were among other prominent names who were left out, some of them at the last minute.
It is believed that the government has kept some lucrative ministries vacant to lure former allies like the MQM and the JUI-F or accommodate some of their own men at a later stage.
Awami National Party, Muslim League-Functional and Fata group were given one ministry each. Israrullah Khan Zehri another ally of the ruling PPP who is facing fake degree charges was retained in the cabinet with change of portfolio.
Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Babar Awan, Rehman Malik, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Manzoor Wattoo and Arbab Alamgir Khan, Khurshid Shah, Shahbaz Bhatti, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour retained their previous portfolios of commerce, industries and production, defence, law, justice and parliamentary affairs, interior, finance, Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, communication, religious affairs, minorities and railways, respectively.
Mian Raza Rabbani, who was earlier the adviser to prime minister, has now been made the federal minister for inter-provincial coordination.
Qamar Zaman Kaira was replaced with Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan. Awan, who previously held the portfolio of population minister, took oath as the new information minister.
Samina Khalid Ghurki, who previously held the office of minister for social welfare, was made the minister for environment.
Hameedullah Jan Afradi from Fata had earlier served as environment minister. He was dropped in favour of Shaukatullah, also from Fata. He has been given the ministry of states and frontier regions in the new set up.
Syed Naveed Qamar was made minister for privatisation. Makhdoom Shahhabuddin, who earlier held the ministries of defence production and health, has been made minister for textile.
Haji Khuda Bux Rajar has been given portfolio of the ministry of narcotics control, while two other new faces, Mir Changez Khan Jamali and Sardar Umar Gorage, have been inducted as ministers of science and technology and postal services, respectively.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2011.
More in PakistanNICL scam: FIA vigilance defeated as Dada slips abroad