ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has adopted a go-slow policy to evolve consensus before expanding his cabinet, the official sources said yesterday. Recently, Prime Minister Sharif appointed two new ministers - Zahid Hamid and Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry – hinting more appointments may be around the corner. Hamid replaced Mushahidullah Khan as Federal Minister for Climate Change while Chaudhry was elevated as State Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division.

In these two appointments, there has been only one addition as Hamid has been brought in as a replacement for Mushahidullah who had resigned. Chaudhry too replaced Barrister Usman Ibrahim but Ibrahim has not been sacked so far. Close aides of the premier were expecting approximately 10 new ministers in the expansion to end the long wait for some candidates who have been knocking the doors since long. But sources said Sharif wanted to give weight to recommendations from all senior aides to make it a mutually agreed decision and avoid possible bickering.

At present, the federal cabinet, with the maximum limit of 49 members, comprises 19 federal ministers, 10 ministers of state, two advisers and nine special assistants. A senior minister told The Nation, Sharif was in no rush and wanted to take everybody onboard on new appointments to ensure a nicely jelled team. In the past, internal differences were exposed when Defence Minister Khawja Asif admitted he had not been on talking terms with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan for years. There were rumours the internal differences could be deeper than believed. The close aide of the premier said the PM had spoken to senior ministers and asked them to work as a team and avoid public bashing of the colleagues.

“In a big party, difference of opinion is not a new thing but the PM was disturbed the way the things were blown out of proportions. Things have settled down now,” he added. He said the PM was open to fresh inductions within the limit of 49 but does not want to annoy any senior member in the process. “Everything is being done in consultation. The future inductions will also come with the same spirit,” the minister remarked. Asked if some ministers could also lose their job amid the expansion, he said: “The PM has been reviewing the performance of the ministers but I can’t say anything. It is up to him.”

Last month, the prime minister had sought performance report from all the ministers giving a veiled hint that the underperforming members could lose their jobs. The reports, detailing the successes and failures of every minister over the last two years, were studied by Sharif. The prime minister is said to be wary of sacking cabinet members outright but those who have performed poorly were expected to be demoted to junior posts. He is also under pressure however, to accommodate a long list of ambitious legislators who are lobbying hard for cabinet berths. Anusha Rehman Amad Khan and Sheikh Aftab Ahmed are optimistic about elevation as federal ministers. The prime minister is also considering accommodating allies in the cabinet expansion.

Political sources said Danial Aziz, Mian Abdul Manan, Mian Javed Latif, Qaisar Ahmad Sheikh, Talal Chaudhary, Senator Javed Abbasi and independent member Taj Mohammed Khan Afridi were among the hopefuls for cabinet slots. Newly-inducted minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry said there was no divide in the party over cabinet slots. “We are all ready for any responsibility the leadership wants us to perform. There is no infighting in the PML-N,” he maintained. “I can accept any responsibility the leadership gives me. I am happy with whatever they want me to do.” He 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 when he wants. He does take the party leaders into confidence over major issues,” the PML-N leader added.