News Analysis |
The size of the Prime Minister’s cabinet is set to increase as new members of Imran Khan’s cabinet take oath on Monday, the 10th of September. The federal cabinet is now 25 strong. According to the Prime Minister’s office, Omar Ayub Khan will be the minister of energy, Ali Zaidi will be given the portfolio of Maritime Affairs and Muhammad Somro will look after privatization.
Murad Saeed has not been assigned a ministery, as of yet. The cabinet members designated to have their oath administered by the new President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi. The President of Pakistan was elected last week and his oath was administered by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar on Sunday, the 9th of September. The PM gave the go-ahead for induction of new ministers on Saturday.
There are immense challenges that the government must tackle. From huge debts to tensions with neighbors and security challenges, a significant section of the population that is uneducated and tens of millions of children out of school.
The cabinet now has 20 ministers, one state minister and four advisors. Advisors have the status of a minister. Iftikhar Durrani and Naeem ul Haque have been appointed as special assistants to the Prime Minister on media affairs and political affairs, respectively. The special assistants are not, however, formally part of the federal cabinet.
The minister of state with independent charge of a ministry i.e. he is without an overseeing cabinet minister. If there is a cabinet minister appointed, then the state minister assists the cabinet minister. The portfolio of the Ministry of the interior is with the PM himself. Shehryar Afridi has been appointed the interior minister of state. Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan resigned due to his graft cases under investigation before the National Accountability Bureau. A graft case refers to political corruption.
Under the 18th amendment, the total size of the cabinet cannot exceed the strength of the Parliament which is 448. This translates to about 50 cabinet members. Thus, the prime minister is well within his rights to increase the size of his cabinet. Under previous governments, there have been cases where this constitutional limit trespassed. For instance, in 2012, the size of cabinet reached 51 members under the Pakistan Peoples Party government.
Dr. Arif Alvi. The President of Pakistan was elected last week and his oath was administered by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar on Sunday, the 9th of September.
Similarly, the former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqab Abbasi’s cabinet also comprised of 51 members which included 32 federal ministers, 15 state ministers and four advisors. Nawaz Sharif had a cabinet of 39 members. The Cabinet is defined in Article 91 of the constitution of Pakistan. The purpose of the cabinet is to ‘aid and advise and advise the President in exercise of its functions.’ The cabinet, together with the ministers of state, shall be collectively responsible to the Senate and the National Assembly i.e. the people’s representatives.
Read more: New Cabinet takes oath
Around the world, cabinet is understood to be a body of high ranking government officials. Canada has around 30 cabinet ministers under Prime Minister Justin Trueadue. In India, the analogous body is the Union Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. In China, the State Council is appointed by the NPC i.e. the National People’s Congress. Of the newly appointed ministers, the portfolio of privatization is probably the most consequential.
Under previous governments, there have been cases where this constitutional limit trespassed. For instance, in 2012, the size of cabinet reached 51 members under the Pakistan Peoples Party government.
There’s a large number of loss-generating state enterprises, foremost among them are the Pakistan International Airlines and the Pakistan Steel Mills. PIA alone has a staggering debt of Rs 406 billion. Previous governments have attempted to privatize them but to no avail. The minister incumbent of finance did say, reportedly, that they carried the ‘working’ for privatizing about 200 government-run companies.
A special ‘wealth fund’ would be created which will be led by people from the private sector and managed by the government at ‘an arm’s length’. If this mass privatization drive is to take place, the ministers of finance and privatization have their work cut out for them. The purpose of the wealth fund is to cut losses of companies in that fund and reduce debts.
There are immense challenges that the government must tackle. From huge debts to tensions with neighbors and security challenges, a significant section of the population that is uneducated and tens of millions of children out of school. Solving problems of such a scale will require monumental and exemplary statesmanship. To be blunt, it’s not possible to eradicate long-standing issues within a 5-year government tenure. But what can be done to is to steer the country onto a path of development and shared prosperity.