As Pakistan enters the fourth day after swearing in its 23rd Prime Minister, the country still operates without a cabinet. While rumors have it that a cabinet has been finalized, an official statement has not been released by the government.
According to sources privy to the matter, the newly elected Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif met with all senior leaders of the joint opposition before finalizing the cabinet. The sources revealed that all political parties which formulated the joint opposition would get representation in the cabinet.
It is suspected that Rana Sanaullah would be given the interior ministry portfolio, while Maryum Aurangzeb would take up the role as the information minister. Moreover, Khwaja Saad Rafique, Khurram Dastgir, and Ahsan Iqbal are also expected to be assigned a portfolio by the cabinet.
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Independent candidates Mohsin Dawar and Aslam Bhootani and PML-Q’s Tariq Bashir Cheema are also likely to be included in the cabinet. From the Pakistan People’s Party, chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is expected to be given the foreign ministry. JUI has also demanded the seat of governorship.
Meanwhile, the debate regarding who’s going to be assigned the arduous task of holding the finance ministry ahead of the crucial talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is still ongoing. The two candidates vying for the position are Miftah Ismail and Ishaq Dar, both of whom are from the Pakistan Muslim League (N).
While the PM’s orders to the High Commission of Pakistan in London to issue a diplomatic passport to Ishaq Dar would suggest that he wants to assign Dar to the portfolio, Bloomberg reported that “Pakistan’s new government is said to have selected Miftah Ismail as the new finance chief.”
Pakistan to Name Miftah Ismail as Finance Chief Before IMF Talks https://t.co/TCD8N3B1RI
— Jeffrey Levin 🇺🇦 (@jilevin) April 14, 2022
Regardless, whoever holds the portfolio as the next finance minister would be faced with the Herculean task of negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), especially after former Prime Minister Imran Khan unexpectedly decreased the prices of petrol, contrary to the IMF directives.
The foreign minister would also have to deal with depleting foreign exchange reserves, increased current account deficits, and one of the fastest rising inflation in Asia. Currently, the reserves stand at a level that only supports imports for a couple of months before the entire economy collapses.
As per the data available by the State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan’s total liquid foreign reserves stand at approximately $17,476.9 million, the lowest level since June 2020. Pakistan’s total external debt has also increased to more than $130,000 million.
The trade deficit also remains significantly high at around $30 billion dollars during the current fiscal year. Pakistan’s current account deficit also soared to over $12 billion and is heading towards the $20 billion mark. Moreover, a recent report by the World Bank has slashed almost one percent from the economic growth rate forecast.
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Both Miftah Ismail and Ishaq Dar have served as finance heads of the state, with Miftah Ismail serving under prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s leadership in 2017-18 and Ishaq Dar serving under Nawaz Sharif’s rule. PM Sharif is expected to announce the cabinet by the week’s end.