ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has yet to discuss the cabinet expansion with his ministers and party leaders while Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has not shared any name with the premier after the May reconciliation, the premier’s close aides said.

There were reports after the reconciliatory meeting between PM Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the last week of May that the interior minister had been authorised to propose five names for induction in the expanded cabinet as ministers. There has, however, been no word from the PM or the interior minister on the cabinet expansion since then.

“The PM has not discussed the issue with the cabinet members or senior party leaders so far. But it is his prerogative to appoint new ministers as and when he wants,” Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal told The Nation.

“These issues are considered at the party and cabinet meetings. Senior party leaders and cabinet members always know these developments. Though the PM has the right to appoint ministers, he does consult his close aides before taking a decision,” Iqbal asserted.

When asked if the PM had consulted senior cabinet members on expansion since the reconciliatory meeting between Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the minister said, “There has been no discussion in the party or the cabinet so far. You can wait and see. We can’t rule out the expansion, but at this time this issue has not been discussed in high-level meetings,” said the senior PML-N leader.

Another high-ranking PML-N leader confided to The Nation that the PM was waiting for the recommendations of the interior minister to take a final decision. “The interior minister has yet to share his nominations with the PM. He is the main player in the expansion, so once he has given his names, the PM will move further,” the PML-N leader said.

Media reports had indicated that new ministers would be appointed soon after the budget session of the parliament, but the process has been delayed. At present, the federal cabinet, with the maximum limit of 49 members, comprises 19 ministers, nine ministers of state, two advisers and nine special assistants.

PML-N lawmaker Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry told The Nation that the party leadership takes decisions at high-level meetings. “These things are not discussed normally at the MNAs level. The high-ups take the decisions at high-level meetings,” he asserted. The ruling party MNA said there was no divide in the party over the cabinet slots. “We are ready for any responsibility the leadership wants us to perform. There is no infighting in the PML-N,” he claimed.

When questioned if he was a candidate for a cabinet slot, Dr Chaudhry said, “I am ready to accept any responsibility the leadership gives me. I am happy with whatever they want me to do.”

The lawmaker said the prime minister has a right to change the portfolio of any cabinet member or bring in new ministers. “Since this is his prerogative, he can take a decision as and when he wants. He does take the party leaders into confidence over major issues,” he remarked.

Dr Chaudhry said the cabinet expansion issue has not been discussed in the recent party meetings. “I don’t know about the cabinet meetings, but this issue has not been raised at any party meeting so far,” he maintained.

PML-N Senator Saleem Zia also said there had been no discussion over the issue of cabinet expansion. “Even if the issue has been discussed, I am not aware of it,” he added. Senator Zia said he was not vying for a cabinet slot. “I am not a candidate. The PM will decide when the cabinet expansion is going to take place,” he contended.

Earlier, Prime Minister Sharif had directed all the ministers to present the performance reports of their ministries in the cabinet meetings. The sources said the PM wants to go for reshuffle and change portfolios of less efficient ministers. This idea has, however, been opposed by the senior PML-N leaders who are of the view the underperforming ministers cannot become efficient overnight when given other ministries. “These senior PML-N leaders think those who are not performing well should be sacked as it will make room for efficient candidates, but it is definitely not an easy decision for the PM,” a close aide said. He added the PM was still examining the ministers’ performance reports and could take tough decisions if needed.