The resignation of Shaukat Tarin as Finance Minister should have shaken the Gilani government more than it did, for two reasons. First, Tarin was a technocrat, and thus his loss meant the loss of a technocrat, not just any minister. Second, finance is supposed to be one of the three great offices of state, and thus the loss, not demotion, of its minister is supposed to be of the first importance. It is assumed in the subcontinent that the three great offices of state cannot be filled by mere politicians, but by experts in their field. This has been overcome in India, and is also being overcome in Pakistan. The Home or Interior, and the Foreign, Ministries, are the other two great offices of state. Apart from their self-evident importance, they also are supposed to serve as a stepping stone to the prime ministership. That is true for the UK, where the list of those prime ministers who had held one or even more of the great offices is much longer than those who have not, which mostly consists of Labour PMs when that party has taken office after a long time. The great offices are so considered because they cover the subjects with which the PM is particularly concerned. Indeed, in a British Cabinet, a PM interested in a particular subject will appoint a weak incumbent, and proceed to do most of the job himself. The Finance Ministry actually consists of two vast divisions, Finance and Revenue, which are respectively the spe-nding and revenue sides. The Finance Ministry collects information about all aspects of government in the course of this, and thus is one of the most important ministries, all of which operate, without exception, on money. In the UK, the spending and collecting sides have become separate ministries, the Exchequer and the Treasury, with separate ministers and both members of the Cabinet. However, in the rest of the world, the Finance Ministry handles both functions. In India, that list has been stunted, because the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has taken office without holding any of those offices, though it has been a qualification for Congress PMs not belonging to the dynasty. Both Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh had been finance minister in a previous Cabinet (and Manmohan, Raos finance minister) before being catapulted into the top slot. In Pakistan, the tradition was there when Liaquat Ali Khan, the countrys first PM, first held office as finance member in the government headed by Pandit Nehru, who himself held one of the great offices as for-eign member of the Executive Council. Muhammad Ali Bogra held the foreign ministry, and continued to hold it as PM, while Ch Muhammad Ali was finance minister becoming PM. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had been Ayubs foreign minister, the last office he held before becoming president and CMLA in 1971. Benazir Bhutto had not held any office at all before becoming PM, and in this respect Mian Nawaz Sharif was ahead, having been the chief minister of the Punjab before becoming PM, and before that Punjab finance minister in the Ghulam Jilani Khan Cabinet, thus holding one of the great offices at the provincial level. Muhammad Khan Junejo before them had been a member of a West Pakistan Cabinet hea-ded by the Nawab of Kalabagh, while Zafarullah Jamali had held federal office before becoming PM. However, his successors, the stopgap Ch Shujaat Hussain and the lasting Shaukat Aziz, had both held the great offices, Shujaat as Nawaz Sharifs interior minister, and Shaukat as Pervez Musharrafs finance minister. Shaukat went on to work with two PMs, Jamali and Shujaat, at this portfolio, before becoming PM. In fact, Shaukat Aziz did not just share a first name with Tarin. They both started their careers in IBA Karachi, where they both did MBAs before joining Citibank. Both rose in it, Tarin becoming its country head in Thailand, Aziz head of its Global Wealth Management and Private Banking, having been country head in Malaysia and Jordan. Tarin came back to Pakistan when Nawaz Sharif made him head of Habib Bank, the largest of all Pakistani banks, then government-owned. He went on to head Union Bank, and led the investors consortium that acquired Saudi-Pak Commercial Bank, now SilkBank, and which he has resigned to pay more attention to. That bank had cost him before, making him resign as president of the KSE in the second of his two tenures when it was acquired. However, while his level of commitment cannot be questioned, nor his level of expertise, he is not really a technocrat. He is not an economist, but a banker. Thus, he is really an illustration of why the finance minister, like other ministers, should be a politician, not a technocrat. Previous ministers, like Sartaj Aziz, made the transition to serve as secretary gen-eral of the PML-N, while Dr Mubashir Hasan, a technocrat finance minister in Bhuttos own government even though basically an engineer, was secretary general of the PPP, before going into the PPP (Shaheed Bhutto). Even now, the names going around for replacing him show that the bias towards technocrats is not over. One name is that of Naseem Baig, another banker, now with a prominent stockbroker. Again, this would not be a politician, and he is being seen as being inducted as PMs adviser, the post to which Tarin was originally appointed, his becoming a senator from Sindh, and then a minister, being necessitated by the constitutional requirements of the National Finance Commission. Incidentally, the Council of Common Interests will have to be re-notified to make up for Tarins departure. Another name doing the rounds is that of former State Bank Governor, Dr Ishrat Hussain, who came there from the World Bank. Though also a banker, Dr Ishrat also has the academic background to fit a technocrats profile. Both Baig and Dr Ishrat will have to be found seats in Parliament. That is not the case with Makhdoom Shahabuddin, who indeed will not have to be found a seat in Cabinet, where he is already health minister. Makhdum Shahab was Minister of State for Finance in both Benazir governments, where his duties were apparently limited to presenting the budgets, while PMs Adviser V A Jaffery, a fin-ance bureaucrat who had ser-ved as State Bank governor to cap his career, ran the Ministry. Shaukat Tarin failed to present the budget last year, being elected to the Senate only this March, but Makhdoom Shahab is already an MNA, and studied economics at college level. Another name doing the rounds is Dr Hafeez Pasha, another person in the technocratic mould, with ringing academic qualifications. However, he may have already turned down the job. If that is the case, perhaps the PPP should look among its own parliamentary party. The office is one which should be attractive, and involves political decisions. Therefore, having taken the hit of the KSE falling one day because of the resignation, the government should be ready to have a political minister, one who is well advised by his bureaucrats. One technocrat is no substitute for a bureaucratic team, which is how it is done the world over. E-mail: