A well-knitted federal cabinet has finally seen the light of the day. After more than a week of dilly dallying, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif made his way to induct in a 34-member cabinet, which has representation from most of the opposition parties that struggled to oust the PTI dispensation. In other words, the grand alliance of PDM tasted power as they overcame extremes in cajoling a consensus and at the same time put up a brave face against all odds. Though the major composition of the cabinet belongs to the PML-N, it has projected a sense of holistic participation by accommodating members from the PPP, JUI-F, MQM and JWP. Despite rumours and reservations from allied parties over the days that they are reluctant to join the cabinet, Sharif has made strides in getting them on board. Now is the real challenge of governance, as this is the first government of its kind that has been formed at the fag-end of the parliament’s tenure and that too in a politically polarised and instable environment.
One of the most noticeable aspects of the new cabinet was the absence of Bilawal Zardari. The word is he will be the next foreign minister of the coalition government, but apparently after a hang back. Reports that Bilawal has made it conditional to induct PTM’s Mohsin Dawar in the cabinet is likely to act as an impediment for the federation, as there are deep-rooted security stakes involved in it. Likewise, the ANP and Akhtar Mengal by staying away have stirred a debate over the stability of the new order in vogue. Nonetheless, the fact that Tareen group’s Aun Chaudhry and PML-Q’s Tariq Bashir Cheema are the new entrants hints at the choreographed mosaic of political opponents. Shehbaz and his team-mates will surely be facing a tough time, as most of them had widespread litigation to face during the previous era. Moreover, framing of budget and working closely with the Election Commission to gear up for general elections will be two of the most enduring challenges before the pluralist cabinet. Thus, synergies should be channelised on a nationalist agenda rather than on witch-hunting, as is unfortunately our response mode in adversity.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2022.
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