Aziz Cabinet: All the King's Horses and Poor Jamali's Men
M Afzal Khan
ISLAMABAD, Sept 2: So it is more of the same. Many were nursing
the illusion that this time it may be different, not necessarily
better or worse, but just different. Even Shaukat Aziz was hinting
at a new look administration - competent, clean, honest and chosen
team he will lead and which has been handpicked for him, is not
only the same which Jamali and Shujaat were destined to live with,
it may be more unwieldy this time.
32, full ministers have been inducted and some more may be trickling
in at a later stage. Then there is the inevitable prospect of
an army of junior ministers waiting in the wings to be sworn-in
within the next couple of days. Indications are that every minister
will have at least one, if not more, minister of state.
first purpose, of course, is to accommodate pressure groups within
ruling coalition or the influential lobbies, which are pulling
the strings from backstage. The second purpose is to cut the concerned
minister to size under constant scrutiny. That is a sure-shot
recipe of chaos.
to this the swarm of parliamentary secretaries, advisors and chairmen
of standing committees, and you have a house suffocating-full.
Hashmi episode had exposed Mr. Shaukat Aziz’s hapless status.
Despite his innate decency, resilience and civility, he was unable
to prevent something that tainted the process of his election
and tarnished his image. One of the characters in that event that
posed to represent Mr. Aziz in the unsavory exercise of opposing
the production order for Hashmi has even been rewarded with a
cabinet formation was being dubbed as a major test of the limits
and parameters within which the new Prime Minister would be allowed
to operate. There was some intense lobbying and the list was shuffled
and reshuffled many times before the final announcement.
has fared no better than Jamali. There is hardly anybody in the
new cabinet who could be considered Mr. Aziz’s choice. Everybody
is somebody else’s representative. The next battle is for
portfolios, and there is little hope of any major change on this
a successful banker, Mr. Aziz is known for being very meticulous
in hunting talent. This time around, he has gotten ready-made
stuff, which he may or may not like. His skill to gel a cohesive
and coherent team, owing allegiance to him, would be severely
close friends say the Prime Minister may have a free hand in the
selection of ministers of state. But names appearing in the media
tell another story. Those who insist that he will be more of a
glorified finance minister than a real prime minister, must have
been reinforced in that view.
is thus a safe bet that he may be able to exercise his choice
in the finance ministry without outside interference. He is reportedly
intent on keeping the portfolio to himself and name an advisor
to run the ministry, probably a repeat of VA Jaffery syndrome.
Among the likely names, State Bank Governor Dr Ishrat Hussain
seems to be the best possible candidate.
On paper it is a cabinet of expedience. The pressure groups like
MQM and Patriots now look more entrenched than ever. They not
only have been able to maintain their previous strength in the
cabinet, but have been given one more minister each. They also
hope to have ministers of state and parliamentary secretaries
Pagara, who made a lot of noise against the PML chief and withdrew
his Functional League from the unified PML, accusing him of establishing
the rule of the Jatts, has finally extracted the price and got
Razzaq Thaheem in the cabinet.
Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has been able to address the long-standing
grievance of his party’s MPs that they have been ignored
in order to appease smaller groups. Most of the 12 new ministers
belong to the dominant party in the coalition. Amanullah Khan
Jadoon, Tahir Iqbal and Mushtaq Cheema are his loyalists. Jadoon’s
choice ensures representation of Hazara division and rewards a
seasoned political worker.
backstage managers have got their own share of the pie like Javed
Ashraf Qazi, Habibullah Warraich, Jehangir Tareen, Wasi Zafar
and Mian Shamim Haider. Wasi Zafar had defected from the PPP after
the election and dropped directly in PML’s fold instead
of his other PPP colleagues who turned into Patriots. He is also
well connected in sensitive places. Chaudhry Shahbaz Hussain is
brother of Chief Justice Lahore High Court and former governor
(late) Chaudhry Altaf Hussain.
Sarwar Khan worked hard for Shaukat Aziz’s election campaign
in Attock and was instrumental in fostering defections in his
old party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Above all,
he was the first person to demand in the National Assembly that
President Musharraf must not shed his uniform and should back
out from his solemn pledge to the nation he made on television,
because the MMA also reneged on its promise to support him in
the confidence vote and on the National Security Council.
other groups, Ejazul Haq is in his lone vote, while Hamid Nasir
Chattha has got the coveted slot of Chairman Kashmir Committee.
Mian Manzoor Wattoo has also not been accommodated.
Wasti also got a rough treatment. Being first to merge his Qasim
Muslim League in the PML, he had gone extra miles to demonstrate
his loyalty to Shujaat and Gen. Musharraf. He contributed in the
unraveling of Jamali and discredited his fine record of three
decades of struggle for democracy by unqualified support to a
the process, he was neither accommodated in the parliament nor
the party or the government. He is living in political wilderness
despite his sharp political acumen. “It serves him right,”
says one of his old friends.