“New” Prime Minister, “New” Cabinet, “New” Zardari, “New” Nawaz Sharif in “Old” Pakistan

Posted on March 31, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Politics
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Adil Najam

I am in Islamabad for a short trip right now and all that anyone can talk about is the new Prime Minister and his new cabinet. Indeed, the place is abuzz with talk of the “new” politics of Pakistan. But, in typical Islamabad style, mixed with the unending cynicism about just how “new” this newness might be. One hears (or sees on TV) very little of Gen. Musharraf right now but the place is also abuzz about the “new” Asif Ali Zardari and he “new” Nawaz Sharif.

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This is Pakistan, so there is no dearth at all of varied opinions on all of the above. Does the new cabinet represent a spirit of experience and reconciliation? Or is it old wine in new bottles? Will the chumminess between Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari last? Or is it simply a common enemy that brings them together? Will Gen. Musharraf leave himself? Or will he be made to leave? If so, by whom? What is the meaning of the unanimous vote of confidence for Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani? Just how revolutionary is his plan for his first 100 days? These are some of the many – too many – questions that abound. The conversations go on and on and on. Much of what one hears is rumor, gossip, and even slander. There is more sloganeering than analysis. Maybe even a denial of the gravity of the multiple crises the country faces. Sometimes I wonder if we are a bit too interested in politics!

But I am probably being unfair. The charm and ‘newness’ of all that is new needs to be celebrated first. And it should. Hopefully, now that the new cabinet is finally sworn in, the new leadership will get down to tacking the many messes we are in. We had better do so as soon as we can. I wish the new Prime Minister and his cabinet best of luck. I also wish that we as a nation will eventually get past our cynicism about politics and start looking into what needs to be done to make politics work for all Pakistanis.

Meanwhile, the new cabinet took oath today – from the President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The cabinet, as it now stands is:

From the PPP, the ministers are Shah Mehmood Qureshi (Foreign Minister), Sherry Rehman (Information Minister), Syed Naveed Qamar (Minister for Privatisation/Port and Shipping-additional), Raja Pervez Ashraf (Minister for Water and Power), Syed Khursheed Shah (Minister for Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis), Qamar Zaman Kaira (Minister for Kashmir Affairs), Senator Farooq Naek (Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights), Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar (Minister for Defence), Nazar Muhammad Gondal (Minister for Narcotics), Najamuddin Khan (Minister for States and Frontier Region) and Mir Humayon Aziz Kurd (Minister for Population Welfare).

Sources said that from the PML-N, the ministers are Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan (Senior Minister and expected to hold the portfolio of Food, Agriculture and Livestock and Communications), Senator Ishaq Dar (Minister for Finance, Economic Affairs and Commerce), Ahsan Iqbal (Minister for Education), Tehmina Daultana (Minister for Women Development), Sardar Mehtab Abbasi (Minister for Railways), Khawaja Asif (Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources), Rana Tanveer Hussain (Minister for Defense Production), Shahid Khakhan Abbasi (Ministry of Trade) and Khawaja Saad Rafiq (Minister for Youth Affairs).

From the ANP, the ministers are Ghulam Ahmed Bilour (Minister for Local Government and Rural Development) and Khawaja Mohammed Khan Hoti (Minister for Social Welfare).

From JUI-F, the minister Rehmatullah Kakar and FATA MNA Hameedullah Jan Afridi have been made the federal ministers.

Indeed, it turns out that the PML(N) members of the cabinet were wearing band arm-bands to protest against the man who was administering them the oath! How much more clear could the message for Gen. Musharraf be? His facial expression suggested that he did get the message loud and clear – but did not like it. It is, quite clearly, going to be a bumpy ride for everyone concerned. As this story in The News highlights (written before the actual oath-taking), the situation could not have been comfortable or comforting for many in the room. Including Gen. Musharraf.

A moment of embarrassment for whom?

An interesting situation is set to emerge at the Presidency on Monday when some two dozen ministers of the new cabinet take oath from President Pervez Musharraf. Many of them had been victimised and some incarcerated at Adalia jail and Attock fort during his eight-year rule over Pakistan.

The question arising in many minds is who will be more embarrassed during the oath-taking ceremony of the new federal cabinet: the new ministers or President Pervez Musharraf? Most interesting is that all these victimised ministers were subsequently acquitted and were given a clean chit after undergoing due legal procedures.

Sources from both the major parties in the ruling coalition confirmed to The News on Sunday that the ministers will say the words “Constitution as it was on Nov 2 2007” when Musharraf says “Constitution”.

Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani was the major victim of Musharraf’s absolute rule and spent five years in jail. He has already created an embarrassing situation in the presidency during his oath-taking on Tuesday but now there will be many more faces in the cabinet to create an embarrassing situation today.

Syed Naveed Qamar of the PPP, who is going to take oath as the minister for privatisation, was detained for more than one year in a false case regarding irregularity in the process during his term as privatisation minister in Benazir’s second government.

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of the PPP, who will get the Ministry of Water and Power, was incarcerated for about six months for fighting with a NAB official during the hearing of the SSG Cotecna reference.

One million rupees worth of his property documents were confiscated in a case in which he was the guarantor of PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N, expected to become senior minister, was arrested on October 12 1999 and remained under detention for one-and-a-half years without any charges or case against him.

Musharraf would have no answer today for Nisar’s long illegal detention. Senator Ishaq Dar, also of the PML-N and the future finance minister, was put in jail after the October 12 military coup, and was shifted to Attock fort and finally detained at his home.

His total detention period was of more than one year and five months and he was released after the departure of the Sharif family from Pakistan for Jeddah. Again, Musharraf would have no answer except embarrassment for Dar’s long detention without any valid case.

Several cases were also registered against the PPP’s Syed Khursheed Shah, who will take oath as Minister of Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis, by the notorious NAB. But no case against Khursheed was proven.

Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, who will take oath as defence minister today, told The News that he was imprisoned for 17 months in a false NAB case of selling rice by a subordinate department of the Ministry of Commerce during his tenure as commerce minister during the second government of Benazir Bhutto.

He said that he was acquitted by the courts after being proved innocent. Ahsan Iqbal and Tehmina Daultana, who will take oath as education and women’s affairs ministers respectively today, were detained repeatedly during the last eight years for protesting against dictatorship.

Ahsan was not charged with any crime though but faced victimisation. He was not even allowed to set up his university by the Higher Education Commission despite fulfilling all the required formalities.

Sardar Mehtab Abbasi, who will take oath as railways minister, faced a false case of illegal wheat transportation but was acquitted by the courts. Khawaja Asif, the future petroleum minister, was detained for more than one year, first in Lahore and then in Attock in a false case.

NAB, which had framed a fake case against Asif, was later not only compelled to scrap the case against him but the then NAB chief Gen Muhammad Amjad also had to tender an apology to him.

Rana Tanver Hussain, who will reportedly take oath as food and agriculture minister, was sentenced to eight-month prison. However, the case later proved to be false and the superior courts released him. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, future defence production minister, remained under detention in the controversial plane hijacking case for a period of one year and five months during Musharraf’s regime.

Khawaja Saad Rafiq of the PML-N and Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the PPP were also arrested during Musharraf’s regime. Saad was repeatedly jailed and was jailed for a long period for participating in a rally staged against the publishing of blasphemous caricatures by European newspapers.

Farhatullah Babar, secretary information PPP, told The News that the decision of who should be more embarrassed today should be left to the people of Pakistan. Should it be the person who detained these ministers or the ministers themselves? “I don’t know how he produced the courage to take oath from Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister, a man who he kept in jail for five long years in a controversial and politically motivated case,” Babar said.

37 responses to ““New” Prime Minister, “New” Cabinet, “New” Zardari, “New” Nawaz Sharif in “Old” Pakistan”

  1. Abdul Saboor says:

    keep it up

  2. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    @Dewana phir say,

    ” Zaban-e-yar-e-man turki, wa man truki nemi-danam,

    ministers who do speak ” a Language ” in Pakistan,
    ‘ unhon nay kia jhak marli hay ??

    zuban to char-pa’aiy bhi apni, bol letay hein huzoor,
    samajh aja’ay gar matan unka, to baat agay barhay

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