Last year, the size of the federal cabinet had been slashed dramatically on two counts: One, unavoidable austerity measures and two, the devolution of ministries under the 18th Amendment. However, it was short-lived.
The size of the federal cabinet swelled once again on Friday, with the induction of 11 ministers – taking the total size from 38 to 49, in addition to the presence of four advisers and five special assistants.
Barring one Fata member, the new ministers that took oath on Friday belong to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The move came amidst reports of bickering among coalition partners, none of whom seem satisfied with their share in the cabinet.
Interestingly, many of the added ministers were those dropped from the cabinet a year ago in the name of rightsizing.
Five senior members of the PPP – Raja Pervez Ashraf, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Rana Farooq Saeed and Farzana Raja took oath as federal ministers. Tasneem Qureshi, who had earlier served as minister of state for interior, and Malik Ammad Khan, a former minister of state for foreign affairs, Samsam Bukhari a former minister of state for information and three others, MNA Raheela Baloch, Senator Abbas Afridi and MNA Malik Azmat, took oath as ministers of state.
The notification of the new additional portfolios has not been issued yet, but is expected soon.
Ashraf, whose name figured in the list of those the Supreme Court has asked to be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) in relation to the Rental Power Projects case, is expected to get a lucrative ministry. On the other hand, Kaira is expected to once again get the portfolio of minister for information and broadcasting, a ministry he had held before it was assigned to the incumbent, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan. Maula Bux Chandio whose portfolio of federal minister for law and justice was given to former Senate chairman Farooq H Naek is likely to be retained as minister for parliamentary affairs.
One source claimed that there was some friction inside the party when Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, president of PPP’s Punjab chapter, refused to take oath as he had conveyed his displeasure over being named as a state minister.
Size does matter
Before Friday’s inductions, the federal cabinet had 30 federal and eight state ministers belonging to the PPP and its coalition partners – the PML-Q, ANP, MQM and Fata independents.
With the new inductions, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will now have 35 federal ministers, 14 ministers of state (effectively junior ministers), four advisers and five special assistants. In addition to the ministers, state ministers, advisers and assistants, there are also parliamentary secretaries – 31 in number. A parliamentary secretary’s job is basically to assist or represent ministers in the house in their absence.
Under 18th Amendment, the size of federal cabinet cannot exceed 11 per cent of the total strength of 448-member Parliament, which would translate roughly into 50 members.
Back in 2011, when Prime Minister Gilani announced the dissolution of his cabinet, the aim was to refurbish the government’s image by moving in accordance with the provisions of a landmark constitutional reforms package, the 18th Amendment, and also to adopt the austerity measures by resizing the federal cabinet.
The ruling PPP was facing pressure from the main opposition, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and donors agencies such as the International Monetary Fund to reduce the size of the federal cabinet and to make significant cuts in government spending.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2012.