Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s first day as the prime minister saw him faced with two key challenges – the energy crisis and a discontent coalition partner.
On Saturday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) was left flabbergasted when their demands were ignored during the announcement of ministers.
In this regard, the premier convened an energy conference to deal with the first challenge and visited the residence of PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to buy some time for the second challenge.
Hours after the oath taking of federal ministers, a debate sparked within the PML-Q as well as within the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Sources told The Express Tribune that senior members from the PML-Q expressed their dissatisfaction over the issue and asked the leadership to take up the matter with the PPP.
The announcement made by Prime Minister Ashraf earlier in the day regarding the portfolios of newly inducted 38 ministers and ministers of state aggravated the situation that led the premier to approach the PML-Q leadership.
According to a notification, 27 federal ministers and 11 ministers of state have been allocated departments. Almost every minister is holding the portfolio he/she already had prior to June 19 when the Supreme Court disqualified former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani over contempt of court charges.
Deputy PM slot goes to … ?
Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi from the PML-Q has been named senior minister and was given the departments of defence production and industries as well. Though a senior minister is supposed to officiate in the absence of the prime minister, he cannot take any policy decisions.
Prior to Elahi, the late Begum Nusrat Bhutto and current leader of the opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had been holding the post.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the PPP had promised the PML-Q that it would appoint Elahi as the deputy prime minister.
Legal wizards, however, are of the opinion that there is no provision for appointing a deputy prime minister under the rules of the cabinet. Therefore, the government will either amend the rules or introduce a presidential ordinance to accommodate Elahi. But the deputy prime minister will always be under the sword of Damocles, since the legal status of the post remains unclear.
Despite legal hitches attached with the slot, Elahi, following a meeting with the premier, is hopeful of getting the slot.
Hayat’s fate hangs in the balance
Furthermore, the absence of PML-Q’s Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat in the federal cabinet is also noteworthy. Hayat was keenly observed by the media when he voted for Prime Minister Ashraf, against whom he had moved the Supreme Court over corruption in the rental power projects.
According to sources, both coalition partners are still at loggerheads over the allocation of an appropriate ministry for Hayat.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has been allotted three ministries, including Overseas Minister (Dr Farooq Sattar), Minister for Ports and Shipping (Babar Ghauri) and State Minister for Overseas Pakistanis (Dr Nadeem Ehsan).
Published In The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2012.