Even as President Asif Ali Zardari swore in 14 members of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) as members of the cabinet, cracks had begun to emerge in the newly formed coalition between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the PML-Q.
Even the legislators who have been allotted ministerial positions seem unhappy with the alliance, calling it a “poor deal”, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Party leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had kept the contours of the deal secret until the very last minute, resulting in several unhappy legislators, many of whom decided to remain in the opposition.
Those that did choose to join the ruling coalition have begun to express reservations, including Faisal Saleh Hiyat, who had left the PPP in 2002, and Amir Muquam, the head of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chapter of the party. Both men conveyed strong reservations to the leadership over making a hasty decision and a “pathetic deal”. Most PML-Q members seem to be unhappy with their new cabinet portfolios.
While an official notification on portfolios had yet to be issued as of the filing of this story, sources say that Ghos Bukhsh Mehar will be minister for privatization, Wajahat Hussain minister for overseas Pakistanis, Amir Muquam minister for production, Faisal Saleh Hayat minister for housing and works, Pervez Elahi minister for defence production, Riaz Pirzada minister for minorities and Anwar Ali Cheema minister for health.
A further seven PML-Q members have been inducted as ministers of state and will serve as deputies to each of their party colleagues with full ministerial rank. Pirzada had conveyed to the Chaudhrys that he would not take oath if he would be offered the office of a junior minister. Amir Muquam is also reported to have approached PML-Q general secretary Mushahid Hussain for a “lucrative ministry”.
Neither the PPP nor the PML-Q have explained why no notification of portfolios was issued, despite the oath-taking ceremony on Monday.
The PML-Q is also reported to have backed out of the demand for a deputy prime minister position for Pervaiz Elahi. It is unclear whether he will be given any special powers or even be declared a ceremonial senior minister. PPP sources acknowledged that the PML-Q had made the demand, but said the party had never pledged to honour it.
There are rifts even within the newly appointed ministers. Three of the seven full ministers are directly related to the Chaudhrys, which has caused resentment within the ranks of the party. None of the party’s senators was offered any cabinet slot, which may explain the resentment within the party’s senate bloc.
When the PML-Q was negotiating their deal with the PPP, they told their members that they were demanding important ministries, among them foreign affairs, finance, petroleum, and water and power, besides the office of the deputy prime minister.
The PPP initially offered the office of UN ambassador to Mushahid Hussain but he refused to accept it and was interested in the foreign ministry.
Prime Minister Gilani, who was involved in the negotiations at a very late stage, and objected over the creation of the deputy prime minister post.
PML-Q had claimed that it had put forward a 19-point agenda before the PPP leadership. Joining the cabinet was one of them but the rest of the agenda has not made public.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2011.