Nawaz Sharif has officially designated Senator Ishaq Dar as the federal minister for finance and Sartaj Aziz as the adviser to the prime minister on economy and foreign affairs, as the PML-N works towards finalising its cabinet, The Express Tribune has learned.
According to credible sources within the PML-N, Nawaz held a one-on-one meeting with Aziz – who is also the head of the party’s manifesto committee – at Raiwind on Thursday, asking him to take up the responsibility of the prime minister’s adviser on economy and foreign affairs. They added that the party’s senior leadership has been informed both of Aziz’s new assignment and Ishaq Dar’s appointment
as finance minister.
The next development regarding the PML-N government’s cabinet will be the designation of the federal minister for foreign affairs, the sources said, adding that Aziz will assist the PML-N chief in making a decision in this regard.
Khawaja Muhammad Asif is reportedly lobbying for the slot of foreign minister, citing his foreign qualifications, command of English and contacts both in Pakistan and overseas as his credentials for the office.
They said the PML-N chief is also contemplating the appointment of a minister of state for foreign affairs. Siddique Khan Kanju had been appointed to the slot by the party in its previous tenure.
But it’s not all smooth sailing as the party is in a bit of a fix when it comes to accommodating two stalwarts from the same district. They are Ahsan Iqbal, who is being pegged to head the Water and Power ministry and Zahid Hamid, who is thought to be the top pick for federal Law Minister. The problem is that both hail from Narowal district, and granting two ministries to people from the same district may lead to criticism from within and without the party.
PML-N invites JUI-F
After snubbing Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s attempts at blocking the PTI in Khyber-Pakhtunhwa, the PML-N has offered a sop to the JUI-F by inviting it to join its government in the Centre and Balochistan.
Although the PML-N has secured 124 seats in the National Assembly, Shahbaz Sharif made a formal offer in this regard during a meeting with JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman in Islamabad on Thursday. The JUI-F has only been able to win 10 seats in the National Assembly.
Talking to the media following the meeting, Shahbaz said “JUI-F has been invited to join the government in the Centre keeping in view the national interest.” “The challenges faced by the country needed to be addressed jointly,” he maintained, adding that countries are not just run by parties which win the elections, but through proper plans of action. He stressed that Nawaz Sharif wanted all political parties on board to tackle terrorism, corruption and the energy crisis.
According to sources privy to the discussions, during the meeting the JUI-F chief once again stressed that allowing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to form a government in K-P would be against both parties’ interests.
Shahbaz Sharif, however, countered Fazl’s apprehensions saying that denying the PTI’s mandate would give the nation a negative message and hurt both parties’ credibility. He, meanwhile, invited Fazl to become a coalition partner in Balochistan as well.
However, Fazl told reporters that no decision regarding the formation of a government in Balochistan had been reached between the parties.
“We have called a party meeting and will take the matter forward after taking everyone’s opinion… We will continue with our mutual cooperation,” he added.
Four more independent MNAs joined PML-N after meeting Nawaz Sharif at Raiwind on Thursday. The inductees were Asghar Shah from Bahawalnagar, Dostain Domki from Sibi, Khalid Magsi from Jhal Magsi and Jam Kamal.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY QAMAR ZAMAN
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2013.