ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in consultation with his close political aides has deferred the expansion of federal cabinet for at least a month, but when it happens, additional charges of some ministries is likely to be taken back from the holders while some state ministers may even lose their jobs.
Sources in the party informed The Nation that the matter of cabinet expansion came under discussion at top level in the party, but there was no urgency in induction of fresh faces in the cabinet and the matter could be given serious consideration by end of next month. They said that PM would have another consultative session with his close confidants after Eid and then something concrete would shape up.
A cabinet member said there was no serious move on cabinet expansion, quickly adding that as and when the decision would be made, most probably by end of next month, the portfolios of some of the ministers could be changed while additional charge of some important portfolios would likely be taken back from some ministers.
Sources in the party said that the additional charge of defence would likely be taken back from Khuwaja Muhammad Asif, who is minister for Water and Power. Similarly, the additional charge of Law and Justice would be taken back from Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed because government had been facing a lot of difficulties in the absence of a fulltime law minister.
Also, few ministers for state would likely be inducted to further spruce up the working of some ministries while some of the incumbent state ministers could even lose their positions, a senior party leader on condition of anonymity informed The Nation.
Another party MNA, who is also eyeing a seat at the federal cabinet, said the cabinet expansion is on cards and he expressed his optimism that the job would be done soon after Eidul Fitr, rejecting the assumption of further delay in the process.
Rumours are around that PM Sharif has offered MQM joining the federal government, ostensibly to bring them in the mainstream politics. But political experts say the real reason behind appeasing the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is to keep the financial hub of the country peaceful because of their dominant role and clout in Karachi.
A source in the party said that it was due to this reason that PML-N did not change the MQM backed Sindh governor. But rubbishing this impression, other PML-N sources said it would not be possible for the party leadership to accommodate two to three MQM members in the cabinet at the cost of some senior and influential party MPs who are craving for getting in.
Party sources further informed that in any future cabinet expansion the major share would be doled out to the MPs from Seraiki belt, as there is a feeling of resentment and alienation among the party MPs from southern Punjab districts who say they have been completely ignored by the party after the elections. There are also reports that parliamentarians from southern Punjab, irrespective of their party affiliations, are planning to form a pressure group to get their demands met by the ruling party, so the PML-N leadership would definitely be accommodating them in the upcoming cabinet change.
Sources further said that after the passage of 18th Constitutional Amendment the size of federal and provincial cabinets cannot exceed 11 per cent of the total strength of their respective legislative assembly. Under this formula the federal cabinet strength, including the advisers and special assistants, cannot not exceed the figure of 50. Currently the federal government has around 20 ministers, 10 state ministers, three advisers and seven special assistants which bring the total number at 40. Hence the PM can add another eight or nine persons in the cabinet. But if all the new faces come from PML-N, there would be no space left for doling out ministerial portfolios to other parties.