ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday took oath from the 14-member caretaker federal cabinet at an impressive ceremony held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, while the 15th nominated member of the cabinet, Dr Mushtaq Khan, was stopped from taking oath at the eleventh hour.
Prime Minister Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso was also present on the occasion.Malik Habib, Ahmed Bilal Soofi, Dr Musaddaq Malik, Arif Nizami, Sohail Wajahat H Siddique, Shahzada Ahsan Ashraf Sheikh, Maqbool HH Rahmatoola, Abdul Malik Kasi, Asadullah Mandokhel, Mir Hassan Domki, Dr Sania Nishtar, Feroze Jamal Shah Kakakhel, Dr Younis Soomro and Shahzada Jamal took oath of their offices.
However, Dr Mushtaq Khan, who was supposed to be the finance minister, was stopped as he was still serving as Chief Economist in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). His chair was removed from the oath-taking ceremony just before the start of proceedings.
After the oath-taking ceremony, Arif Nizami said that being the information minister he will try his level best to keep very cordial relations with the media and press.
Malik Habib, former IG Police and now caretaker interior minister, said his top priority would be maintaining law and order in Balochistan and Karachi. He said he would personally visit these areas immediately after taking oath.
Ahmer Bilal Soofi, who took oath as the caretaker law minister, said he will work in accordance with the Constitution for welfare of the people. However, other ministers were not aware of their portfolios, which will be allotted within the next 24 hours.
No services chiefs of the armed forces and ambassadors were seen at the oath-taking ceremony of the caretaker cabinet. However, a large number of federal secretaries were present on the occasion.
Dr Mushtaq Khan was stopped from taking oath because being an adviser to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) he could not assume a ministerial post.
Dr Mushtaq A Khan will have to resign as chief economic adviser of SBP in order to take oath in the caretaker set-up. The SBP Act, the sources said, does not allow any official of the central bank to assume an important ministerial slot at the central or provincial level.
“It also shows that the caretaker set-up selected ministers without conducting proper homework,” said the sources.When contacted, Governor SBP Yaseen Anwar said on Tuesday evening that he certainly did not stop him from taking oath but he took the decision himself due to SBP Act.
Keeping in view the SBP Act, Governor SBP said that Mr Mushtaq needed clarification to avoid any complication at a later stage. To another query as to who raised this issue as Dr Mushtaq was selected only after he expressed willingness to join the cabinet the Governor SBP said you would have to ask the government about the process of selection of ministers.
This scribe also contacted Dr Mushtaq A Khan and inquired from him the reasons for not taking oath at the last moment. In his brief reply, he said that “we will sort it out and then let you know”.
But sources in the PM Secretariat told The News that this caretaker set-up would last till the elections while Dr Mushtaq A Khan would have to give up his existing position if he wants to become the finance minister for 40 days.
Dr Mushtaq had served in ABN Amro Bank and then worked with SBP. He then left the SBP and joined Citibank. During the tenure of former finance minister Shaukat Tarin, he was again hired as chief economic advisor to SBP.
Dr Mushtaq A Khan had produced candid and frank reports about the economy that disturbed the federal government. But another economist commented that during the PPP-led government the economy was in the hands of a B team while the caretakers were making efforts to hand over affairs to more junior people.