Breaking News: 22 New Member of Federal Cabinet Sworn in, Hina Rubani Khar appointed Minister of state. Pakistan’s president on Friday swore 22 ministers into office in the first phase of a government reshuffle designed to reduce the size of the cabinet and curb public spending.
Struggling from unprecedented flooding last year that caused damages of $9.7 billion, the government is under huge pressure to introduce economic reforms and meet International Monetary Fund (IMF) targets agreed in a 2008 bailout package.
Most of the 22 who President Asif Ali Zardari swore in are members of his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Eighteen were members of the outgoing cabinet, which numbered more than 50 and resigned on Wednesday.
A reduction in the size of the cabinet is required under the 18th amendment to the constitution, which stipulates it should be no larger than 11 percent of parliament, which would be a maximum of 49 members.
Government officials said more cabinet ministers would be sworn into office at a later date, including members of other parties in the fractious coalition.
Each minister swore to undertake their duties “honestly” and “faithfully in accordance with the constitution” and “always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan”.
The government is under huge domestic pressure to implement a raft of reforms, in order to head off any possible threat of a call for early elections from opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif in January gave the government 45 days to implement key reforms or risk having the PPP kicked out of government in Punjab province.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N party said this week that the government needs to do far more to curb spending than simply appointing a new cabinet.
“We have demanded a 30-percent reduction in government expenditure… So far we are disappointed. The 45-day period will be over before the end of the month but they have done nothing tangible,” said party spokesman Siddiqul Farooq.
Analysts have also dismissed the reshuffle as window dressing, which alone is insufficient to satisfy the IMF and international donors.
“The government will have to slash the number of ministries and surplus people in order to ensure substantive expenditure cuts. Merely downsizing the cabinet will not do any good,” economic analyst Salman Shah has said. – AFP