In Punjab’s cabinet, where are the loyalists?

There are 35 members in the Punjab cabinet

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Governor Punjab Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar administering oath to newly inducted ministers in Provincial Cabinet during a ceremony at Governor House on September 12 - Photo APP 

On Wednesday, 12 new ministers were inducted into the Punjab cabinet, bringing its total strength to 35. Separately, five advisers and five special assistants to the chief minister have also been appointed.

Considering that the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in the country’s most populous province had a cabinet of 34 members, by the end of its term in May, 35 is not an unusual number. However, one stark difference between the previous ruling party and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is its selection of men. (There is only one woman in the cabinet).

Shehbaz Sharif, the former Punjab chief minister, was often excoriated for repeatedly bringing into office the same faces – close confidants and family members. But the PTI, it seems, has adopted the opposite strategy. When handpicking politicians for senior government positions, Imran Khan’s party has overlooked its loyalists and instead accommodated and rewarded new entrants.

Surprisingly, 24 MPAs, who contested independently but joined the PTI after the July ballot – due to the efforts of Jehangir Tareen – have been allotted 13 portfolios as ministers or advisers in the cabinet. The remaining 11 politicians were promised adjustments in the future.

One of these men is Mohammad Salman Naeem. In July, he trounced PTI’s vice chairman and incumbent Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, as an independent from a provincial constituency in Multan. The defeat shattered Qureshi’s dreams of ever becoming the chief minister of Punjab. Naeem is now the special adviser for transport in the province.

As for the 122 MPAs who were victorious from the PTI platform in Punjab, they have a total of 24 ministries or advisory roles between them. Even of these, three belong to the Janoobi Punjab Mahaaz group. They left the Pakistan Muslim League-N and joined the PTI as late as May.

Interestingly, four politicians who won as independents were given portfolios over the PTI candidates they defeated. Namely, Taimoor Khan, who won from PP 124 (Jhang) was handed over the ministry of sports. He routed PTI’s Ghulam Ahmad Khan Gadi. While Faisal Hayat who won from PP 125 (Jhang) was given the portfolio of dairy development and Mehr Mohammad Aslam Bharwana who won from PP 127 (Jhang) has also been made a minister.

Similarly, in Muzaffargarh, the six MPAs who won on PTI tickets went home empty-handed, while two of the three independents who won from the same area were made part of the cabinet. Abdul Haye Dasti, who won with a margin of 17 votes, has been made an adviser to the chief minister and Khurram Sohail Laghari is now a special adviser.

More independents, such as Pir Syed Saeed ul Hassan Shah of Narowal, Shaukat Ali Laleka of Bahawalnagar, and Syed Hussain Jahanian Gardezi of Khanewal have also been included in the cabinet. The later joiners who have been made advisers include, Ameer Mohammad Khan Hassan Khel from Bhakkar, Umar Farooq from Faisalabad, and Pir Rafaqat Ali Gilani from Layyah, and Mohammad Hanif Pitafi from Dera Ghazi Khan.