Sunday June 16, 2024

PM Shehbaz close to century and still batting

PM has expanded his cabinet by eight members and took the total strength to 85

By Ansar Abbasi
February 09, 2023
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif. Photo: AFP
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif. Photo: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is close to making a century of his cabinet members. He has already scored 85 and is still batting.

While the country is facing serious economic issues and governance remains one of the most weak areas of successive governments here, the incumbent premier keeps on adding more and more members in his already-bloated and largest-ever cabinet.

On Wednesday, the prime minister inducted MNAs Chaudhry Abid Raza and Muhammad Moeen Watto as Special Assistants to the PM (SAPM) with the status of minister of state.

A day earlier, on Tuesday, Shehbaz added five more members to his cabinet and notified them as SAPMs. All these new SAPMs are legislators from treasury benches and include Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan, Ms Shaista Pervaiz Malik, Chaudhry Muhammad Hamid Hameed, Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh and Malik Sohail Khan.

Last week, on Feb 2, the premier inducted a private but influential person Muhammad Jawad Sohrab Malik as SAPM with the status of minister of state. So in the last seven days, the PM has expanded his cabinet by eight members and took the total strength of cabinet members from last month’s 77 to present 85. A glance at the Cabinet Division’s last few months’ notifications shows that most of the division’s recent notifications pertain to the appointment of cabinet members, many of whom have no assigned job. 

The government claims that the SAPMs are not officially considered as cabinet members but almost all such notifications show them having enjoyed the status of federal ministers or ministers of state. With the latest addition, the total number of SAPMs has reached to 40 whereas Shehbaz Sharif already has 34 federal ministers, seven ministers of state and four advisers, making the total 85. Never in the history of Pakistan, any prime minister had had such a bloated cabinet. According to the government’s claim, many of these cabinet members do not draw any salary. However, sources in the bureaucracy insist that these appointments do have financial implications for the public kitty. 

Interestingly, many cabinet members have no portfolio. It appears that these appointments are made only to please the appointees or their unknown recommenders. According to the information available on the official website of the Cabinet Division, there are 19 SAPMs who have no portfolio including Senator Hafiz Abdul Karim, MNA Muhammad Junaid Anwar Chaudhry, MNA Shaikh Fayyazuddin, MNA Romina Khurshid Alam, Muhammad Owais Siddiqui, Zafaruddin Mehmood, Ms Rubina Irfan, Malik Abdul Ghaffar Dogar, Sardar Shahjehan Yousaf, Malik Nauman Ahmad Leghari, MNA Rana Mubashir Iqbal, Muhammd Jawad Sohrab Malik, Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan, MNA Ms Shaista Pervaiz Malik, MNA Chaudhry Hamid Hameed, MNA Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, MNA Malik Sohail Khan and Ambassador (retd) Muhammad Sadiq. Out of 34 federal ministers, Mian Javed Latif is also without any portfolio.