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New Cabinet, old faces: Majority of ministers, advisers served under Musharraf

The newly announced cabinet of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government contains many experienced politicians, the majority of whom previously held key posts in the regime of former dictator General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf.

By Waseem Abbasi
August 19, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The newly announced cabinet of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government contains many experienced politicians, the majority of whom previously held key posts in the regime of former dictator General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf.

As many as 12 members of Prime Minister Imran Khan's cabinet served under Musharraf. The 21-member cabinet includes a former spokesperson of Musharraf, his attorney and several members of his cabinet and core team.

The Cabinet members who served under Musharraf in various capacities include Farogh Naseem, Tariq Bashir Cheema, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Zubaida Jalal, Fawad Chauhdry, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Shafqat Mehmood, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Abdul Razak Dawood, Dr Ishrat Hussain and Amin Aslam.

Five of the new cabinet members had served as ministers in past Pakistan People’s Party governments. They include Pervez Khattak, Babar Awan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Fehmida Mirza and Fawad Chaudhry.

Imran Khan (L) takes the oath of the Prime Minister from President Mamnoon Hussain at the President House in Islamabad on August 18, 2018.

Among the allies of the PTI, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has emerged as the biggest beneficiary with two cabinet portfolios, despite having only seven seats in the 342-member National Assembly. One minister each was appointed from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, Grand Democratic Alliance and Awami Muslim League, along with an independent MNA from the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Only three members of the cabinet are PTI stalwarts who never joined any other party: Asad Umar, Shireen Mazari and Aamir Kiyani.

Here is the brief profile of some of the cabinet members.

Senator Dr Farogh Naseem, who has been given the important Law and Justice Ministry, served until recently as Musharraf’s attorney in the infamous treason case. Farogh is regarded as one of the brilliant lawyers of the country. He holds an LLB degree from the University of Wales and an LLM from the London School of Economics. He also has a PhD in comparative constitutional law from the University of London.

PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry,  who has been designated as Minister for Information and Broadcasting, served as the spokesperson of Musharraf before joining PPP in 2012 where he served in the cabinet of two prime ministers, Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf. He is the nephew of the late Chaudhry Altaf, a PPP politician who served as the Governor of Punjab from 1993 to 1997.

Shafqat Mehmood, who has been assigned the Federal Education and National History ministries, is a seasoned politician. He was was a caretaker federal minister in 1996-7, and a senator from 1994 to 1999. Under Musharraf, he was Punjab Information Minister in 1999-2000. Shafqat holds master’s degrees from Harvard University, the University of Southern California and Punjab University. He was a columnist for The News from 2000 to 2011.

Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmad has been named Minister for Railways. He was previously a minister for information and railways in cabinets working for administrations led by Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf.

Tariq Bashir Cheema has been allotted the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions. He, too, was a staunch supporter of Musharraf and was elected district Nazim of Bahawalpur during his rule.

MQM’s Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui will be the Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication in Khan’s cabinet. Siddiqui has been a member of the MQM since the 1990s and worked as the deputy convener of the party before it splintered. Siddiqui is former chief of the All-Pakistan Muttahida Student Organisation.

The Water Resources Ministry has been assigned to Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, a scion of an influential political family in South Punjab. Khusro served as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in in 2004 under Musharraf. He changed loyalties several times before joining finally PTI this year ahead of the elections.

Zubaida Jalal, the new Minister for Defence Production, is the only cabinet member from Baluchistan. As education minister, she was a star of Musharraf's first cabinet, and was introduced to the world as an enlightened moderate and a role model for Baloch and Pakistani women.

However, in 2008 allegations have been leveled against the former minister in its inquiry report that she had misappropriated funds to renovate her house and office. She exonerated in 2009 after a Federal Investigation Agency investigation produced no evidence.

PTI Vice Chairman Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi is the new Foreign Minister, a job her performed for the PPP government from 2008 to 2011. He had resigned from the post after developing differences with PPP leadership over the release of US spy Raymond Davis, who killed two Pakistanis in broad day light in Lahore. He is a seasoned politician from Multan who has contested and won provincial and national assembly seats since 1985. As a member of the PML-N, he served as the Punjab Minister of Finance and Planning during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Ghulam Sarwar Khan, a veteran PTI politician from Rawalpindi, will be the Minister for Petroleum after inflicting an embarrassing defeat to arch rival and former PML-N stalwart Chaudhry Nisar in two National Assembly constituencies. He previously served as the Minister for Labour and Manpower in the Musharraf regime. He was associated with the PPP and PML-Q before joining the PTI.

The key post of Finance Minister is now held by senior PTI leader Asad Umar, a two-time MNA. He holds an MBA degree from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi. He worked with Exxon Chemicals Pakistan before joining Engro Polymer and Chemicals as CEO. He became the President and CEO of Engro Corporation in 2004. He took early retirement as president and CEO from Engro in April 2012 and joined the PTI. His elder brother Muhammad Zubair is senior PML-N leader and recently resigned as Governor of Sindh.

Amin Aslam has been appointed Adviser to Prime Minister on Climate Change. Aslam has also served as a minister under Musharraf regime. Aslam was elected an MNA from Attack in 2002 for the PML-Q and subsequently served as the state minister for the environment up to 2007.

Ishrat Hussain, the PM's Adviser on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, served as Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan during the Musharraf regime. Ishrat is respected as banker and economist both within and outside Pakistan. After completing his PhD from Boston University, he enjoyed a long career with the World Bank, serving as its country economist for Liberia, chief economist for the Asia-Pacific region, and as head of the Central Asia region. He also served as the dean of the IBA from 2008-2016.