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June 16, 2018

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Punjab cabinet expanded by four ministers

LAHORE: Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Hasan Askari has expanded the caretaker cabinet by adding four more ministers, the need and choice of which has been widely criticized.

In a notification number NO PSJSCM (CMO)(D)-18/OT-4/193602, under the Subject ‘Assigning Of Portfolios To The Ministers’ it was done in exercise of the powers conferred on the chief minister under Section 3(5) of the Punjab Government Rules of Business 2011. The Chief Minister is pleased to assign Housing, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Department (HUD&PHED), Cooperative and Environment to Saeedullah Babar; the portfolio of Agriculture, Food, Planning and Development to Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan who is President of the Centaurus Group. The portfolio of Labour & Human Resource Livestock And Dairy Development Department (L&DD) and Transport to Mian Nauman Kabir, Steel Manufacturer and Prominent Member of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries Lahore. The portfolio of Higher Education, School Education, Special Education, Literacy and Non Formal Basic Education was given to Chaudhry Faisal Mushtaq, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of a chain of private schools.

The notification also mentioned that after these appointments, the additional charge of HUD&PHE Department assigned to Zaffar Mahmood Minister for Energy & LG&CD is hereby withdrawn.

The internet was abuzz with criticism regarding the need to appoint more people for this short period of time where the ministries are mostly ceremonial positions in nature while the operations are handled virtually by the bureaucracy.

“Strong protest & condemnation from circles across Punjab on appointment of Faisal Mushtaq, a private school owner/entrepreneur as Education Minister in caretaker cabinet. “The CM Punjab is requested to review his decision in larger public/national interest”, was one of the many tweets questioning the choices for these ministries,

“Heavy investors buying their way into ministerial posts in Punjab Caretaker Cabinet with many super competent people being ignored in Punjab government,” tweeted another.

The whatsapp groups of journalists and political savvy quarters of the society also discussed the issue and many termed this in contradiction to the culture of austerity, merit and change expected at least from caretaker chief minister.

Caretaker Minister Information Ahmed Waqas Riaz said that the criticism is premature and these and the allegations of them buying into these posts is baseless. He said that it would be unfair to judge the new ministers without giving them an opportunity to prove themselves, and as a nation we should be more encouraging as a polity. He was of the view that the criticism would be mandated if they fail to deliver what is expected from them.

The minister said that the chief minister had absolute autonomy over these picks and if there is any influences from the federal government, he would not be aware of them.

Askari attended the oath-taking ceremony of new ministers at the Governor’s House, here on Friday. Governor Rafique Rajwana took oath from the new ministers namely Saeedullah Babur, Sardar Tanvir Ilyas, Mian Nauman Kabir and Ch Faisal Mushtaq. The Chief Minister congratulated the new ministers and said that caretaker set up in the Punjab is totally apolitical and neutral. Holding of free and fair elections is our responsibility, he added. “We shall hold elections while remaining impartial in toto and this responsibility will be fulfilled as a national obligation.”

Earlier, Dr Askari met the Governor Punjab and discussed different matters for ensuring free and fair elections.

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