Whether term it austerity on the face of it or keep the wannabes desiring to become provincial ministers and stick to the PML-N to keep its majority, it is an established fact the Punjab government is managing its affairs with the thinnest-ever possible cabinet of the recent past, which is adversely affecting the working of the province.
Now the situation is that the government’s working is being supervised by only nine ministers, all belonging to the PML-N. Resultantly, some of them are looking after the affairs of more than five departments simultaneously, which seems to humanly impossible. Also Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif himself is having charge of a dozen departments. Interestingly, since PPP’s Tanveer Ashraf Kaira was deposed as Finance Minister, this one of the most important department has virtually become a rolling stone. In this June, Kamran Michael was given charge just two days prior to the budget speech. Earlier, Senior Advisor to CM Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa was holding the portfolio.
Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman is holding charge of six departments including Excise & Taxation, Higher Education, School Education, Literacy and Non-Formal Basis Education and Transport. Similarly, Ahmad Ali Aulakh, is also looking after over half a dozen departments including Agriculture, Irrigation, Cooperatives, Livestock & Dairy Development, Forest, Fisheries & Wildlife, Tourism & Resort Development. Kamran Michael is taking care of four departments, including Human Rights, Minorities Affairs, Women Development and Finance. Rana Sana Ullah is also looking into the affairs of Revenue department besides Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Prosecution department. Haji Ehsan-ud-Din Qureshi is holding portfolios of Religious Affairs and Auqaf, Bait-ul-Maal and Labour departments. Sirdar Dost Muhammad Khan Khosa has been given change of Commerce & Investment, Nadeem Kamran, Zakat & Ushr), Ch Abdul Ghafoor, Food and Mines and Minerals. Malik Muhammad Iqbal Channer, Minister Prisons, is the only minister with single department.
Currently, Haji Ehsanuddin Qureshi, Dost Muhammad Khosa, Malik Iqbal Channer and Ahmad Ali Aulakh are representing the Southern belt out of total nine ministers. Sirdar Zulfiqar Khosa, also from the same region, is serving as Senior Advisor to the CM.
Every now and then, no one less than Punjab Law Minister Sanaullah tells the media that the cabinet would be expanded soon, while Punjab government’s spokesperson Senator Pervaiz Rasheed negates this in almost unequivocal terms that the provincial government was being run smoothly, and to keep the principle of austerity in tact, there is no need for adding ministers to the cabinet. “Though the Constitution, after the 18th amendment, allows the government to have a maximum of 41 provincial ministers, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif believed in a small cabinet,” he told TheNation.
On June 13, Rana Sanaullah has said his government was taking 13 new ministers in the cabinet, and members of the Unification block would not be given any portfolio. He hinted at the possibility that the induction would be made towards the end of the last month, which had not been done so far.
Despite this, the media is always abuzz with news that the Punjab government is having mood to expand its cabinet. This starts a musical chair when there are news that the PML-N leadership had abandoned expansion in the cabinet as it was due since February 25 when the PPP ministers were sent home packing; thus putting an end to the coalition government in the province. Since then it has been believed that the defectors of the PML-Q, retagged as the Unification Bloc, would be made part of the cabinet, while taking a few MPAs from the ruling party.
So far nothing is on cards regarding the expansion, and surely the existing ministers cannot cope with their duties because of the huge burden of each department. “This is humanly impossible to deal with all departments,” observed a minister seeking strict anonymity. He agreed that the working of the departments was getting adversely affected due to lack of supervision of the ministers. However, he denied the assertion that perhaps the CM wanted to run the administration through his chosen babus, instead of trusting the men from his own party.