There was never going to be anything straightforward about the election for the post of prime minister. There were always going to be hands in the background busily working away at their vested interests and now we see the fruits of their labour. Not only are we to have a deputy prime minister (for which there does not appear to be any constitutional provision and whose powers and duties are as clear as mud) but we are to have an expanded cabinet as well. The federal cabinet has been a beast that has varied in shape and substance considerably in recent years, and it is now looking somewhat bloated. Part of the behind-the-scenes business clearly included a raft of ‘jobs for the boys’ as bride-price for a happy union of political parties.
Fifteen new members were inducted into the federal cabinet at a ceremony held at the presidency on Monday. All of them are members of the PML-Q. The strength of the cabinet under the 18th Constitutional Amendment should not exceed eleven percent of the total strength of parliament, including advisers and special assistants to the prime minister. The National Assembly has 342 members, the Senate 104, giving a collective strength of 446 of which eleven percent is 49. The size of the cabinet has swelled in recent days to sixty with the appointment on Monday of six advisers plus Rehman Malik who is minding the interior ministry and everybody else’s business as well. The global average for ministers is 30. The average for sub-Saharan Africa is 40. Germany has 16, Poland 19, Sweden 21 and France 21. Politics aside; what is there for sixty men and women to do apart from compiling very long lists of expenses claims and recruit endless numbers from their extended families into jobs counting paperclips in the governmental equivalent of the far side of the moon? Making a collective decision in a cabinet of that size is a virtual impossibility, the entire edifice costs a fortune every day and the country is no better governed because of an increase in the size of the cabinet than when Gilani was minding the matters. The net result is that we are worse governed than we were a week ago, the national exchequer has to find the funds to fatten these newly-promoted cats and much of the rest of the population wanders around jobless, powerless, hungry and largely hopeless.