Some of the caretaker ministers in the federal cabinet come with rare strengths
A veteran journalist, Murtaza Solangi has been appointed the information minister in the new caretaker setup. Solangi, originally from Sindh, has expertise in radio and television broadcasting. He studied radio broadcasting from the United States. Recently, his work has been focused in the electronic and digital media. Prior to his cabinet appointment, he was programmes and news director at a private television channel. He has earlier served as director general of Radio Pakistan.
His political views are no mystery. During the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf regime, he came under fire for his political commentaries. He is known to have close ties with the Pakistan Peoples Party and its top leaders, especially Asif Ali Zardari. He is also known for espousing progressive views on society. Solangi is an unabashed admirer of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
A politician from Balochistan, Safaraz Bugti is considered very close to Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar. Some say that he will be the prime minister’s right-hand man in the cabinet and look after most of the day-to-day affairs. In this regard, he has been compared by some observers to former interior minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, a close aide and loyal colleague of Shahbaz Sharif. Bugti has earlier been a member of Balochistan’s provincial assembly. He has also served as home minister for the province. He was among the founding members of the Balochistan Awami Party, considered by many as a creation of the establishment. He has also served a term in the Senate of Pakistan. He is said to have clear views on the country’s political landscape. It is said that he was the first choice of PM Haq. Besides the interior ministry, he will look after the Ministry of Narcotics Control and the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development.
As finance minister in the caretaker cabinet, Dr Shamshad Akhtar will also look after revenue, economic affairs and privatisation. Dr Akhtar has been the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s presidency. An important challenge for her as minister will be dealing with the International Monetary Fund. Born in Hyderabad, Dr Akhtar received her early education in Karachi and Islamabad. She has an excellent academic record and has been a post-doctoral Fulbright fellow. In 1987, she was a visiting fellow at the Department of Economics at Harvard University. She began her professional career at the Asian Development Bank in 1990 and remains engaged with the bank. She has also served as an under-secretary-general of the United Nations and was the tenth executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (from 2014 to 2018).
An eminent researcher and entrepreneur, Dr Umar Saif is said to have strong ties to the Sharif family. He has been appointed the federal minister for information technology, telecommunication and science and technology. Saif completed his PhD in computer science from the University of Cambridge in 2001. He has extensive experience in academia, management, consulting and entrepreneurship in the IT sector. In 2013, he became the first vice-chancellor of the Information Technology University, Punjab. Earlier, he had been a part of the fulltime faculty at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (from 2006 to 2013). He has also been the chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board, where he started several IT projects in the Government of Punjab, during Shahbaz Sharif’s chief ministership. These included giving smart phone access to citizens to many services provided by the Police Department, the High Court, district governments, and Health and Education Departments. He also led the development of Pakistan’s first e-learning platform, making school textbooks in the Punjab available online, augmented with interactive learning resources. He has also led startup initiatives for the youth.
The writer can be reached at email@example.com. He tweets @waqargillani