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Cabinet expansion - weakness or strength.

Cabinet Expansion - Weakness or Strength

The cabinet expansion is unprecedented. Its size now stands at 49. The size of the second PPP government was 44. The question is whether this large cabinet would be able to save the IJI government from the imminent fall? Political pundits observed that Nawaz Sharif has completely exposed his weaknesses by haphazard inclusion of ministers and placing them at places where they are misfit. Qualification and expertise have not been considered in assigning various portfolios to different ministers. One criterion was the relationship with people at the helm of the affairs. Quite a few brothers and in-laws now figure in both the Federal and provincial cabinets.

Sen. Anwar Saifullah Khan who has been inducted into the Federal Cabinet already had his elder brother, Salim Saifullah Khan, in the provincial cabinet. Mohammad Aslam Khattak, another new Federal Minister, is the father-in-law of Nawabzada Mohsin Ali Khan, the NWFP Finance Minister. Also, both Anwar and Salim Saifullah are Mr. Khattak's nephews. Anwar Saifullah is also son-in-law of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.

Another son-in-law of the President, Irfanullah Khan Marwat already occupies a powerful place in the Sindh Government as the Chief Minister's Home Affairs Adviser.

Jam Mashooq Ali who has been given the portfolio of Minister of State for Production is the son of Sindh Chief Minister Jam Sadiq Ali. Similarly Asad Junejo is the son of former prime minister Mohammad Khan Junejo. The inclusion of Asad Junejo and Jam Mashooq in the cabinet is an attempt by Mr. Nawaz Sharif to reach political accommodation with his adversaries in order to checkmate possible opposition from the Pir of Pagara who has threatened to reactivate his faction of the Muslim League as opposed to that controlled by the Prime Minister.

Ghous Ali Shah returned as defence minister. This portfolio had remained open throughout the first 11 months of IJI rule. It may be recalled that Ghous Ali Shah was defeated in his home province from safe Narowal constituency and elected from Punjab. Former Prime Minister Mr. Junejo was disowning him as representative of Sindh.

Mohammad Siddiq Khan Kanju as a Minister of State for Foreign Affairs is a newcomer. The Ministry will now be in the hands of the bureaucrats in the Foreign Office headed by Secretary-General Akram Zaki, considered to be Prime Minister's personal choice for this prized post.

By expanding his cabinet Mr. Nawaz Sharif has tried to pacify different factions who are supporting his government. There are IJI components like the Muslim League Jamate Islami etc. Non- IJI parties like MQM, ANP, JUP (Niazi Group), the Jam Group of Independents are also there. With the expansion every Muslim League MNA is a Minister for State or Parliamentary Secretary as they are now 65 while PML, MNA's are 124.

With so many varied parties in the Cabinet, it is difficult to evolve a coherent socio-economic policy. Even in religious matters there are likely to be problems. Maulana Abdul Sattar Niazi is now Minister of Religious Affairs. He had earlier resigned as Minister of Local Bodies and Rural Development citing differences of principles most specifically over the introduction of Shariat with the Nawaz Government. Being at the helm of affairs Maulana Niazi can adopt whatever Islamic reforms he sees fit. Political observers feel that he will find this almost impossible and by inclusion in the Cabinet, he has effectively been silenced.

Let us accept the fact that the expanded cabinet was a political necessity. The expansion will place extra burden of about Rs. 5 million a month on the national exchequer. Each new minister will require a new office and the staff to go with it at the new residences.

Women's participation has been completely ignored. There already exists a ministry of women's development but it is without women minister. Despite the dramatic expansion of the Cabinet the post of full fledged Foreign Minister still lies vacant. As now out of 28, exact half 14 are from Punjab, seven from Sindh, five from NWFP and two from Balochistan. Among the 18 state ministers, no less than 13 are from the Punjab while two each from NWFP and FATA, only one belongs to Sindh and none to Balochistan. Mian Nawaz Sharif has now accommodated all IJI components and allies with a Parliamentary presence with the exception of the Jamat-e-Islami. While the ANP, having only three seats in the Assembly, has been given two Ministries and JUP with two MNAs has been given one Ministry and other groups have been similarly treated, the MQM has had a shabby deal. It has 14 MNAs but only two ministries in a Cabinet of 69. It deserves to have seven Ministries, it is said. This is being keenly felt not only by the MQM leadership but more keenly by its rank and file. Among those not offered a place in the sun, Maulana Fazlur Rehman's JUI had left the coalition some weeks ago, perhaps in the anticipation of the expansion to which it was not a party.



Punjab is faced with the worst scandal of its history involving several billion rupees. According to press reports cooperative societies in the Punjab have collected an amount of about 23 billion rupees from 2.6 million depositors. According to the Punjab Chief Minister, 60 per cent of the deposits were with the two cooperatives - the National Industrial Credit and Finance Corporation (NICFC) and National Credit Corporation (NCC), both owned by an IJI MPA. Another 30 per cent of the deposits were with three other cooperatives - Services Cooperative Credit Corporation (SCCC), Mercantile Credit Corporation (MCC) and Pasban Cooperative Corporation, two owned by two IJI leaders and one by a PPP MNA. Thus, the five giants, according to the Chief Minister, held 90 per cent of the deposits. It appears now that the whole financial system is at stake. The beneficiaries thought that their sins would evaporate in the thin air with the passage of time. But the scandal is making its presence felt everywhere.

The investors included retired Servicemen, widows, overseas labourers, small traders with small and medium deposits and a big number of big businessmen and government officials with large even huge accounts. According to reports several people from the rural areas even sold their agricultural land to invest in the cooperatives. The public outcry was led by Benazir Bhutto and she addressed huge public rallies in Punjab and on September 4, gave the government one months to make good depositors losses failing which she threatened to start political agitation.

It is a case of widespread loot and plunder in which the responsible government functionaries were involved. Dr. Basit an advocate who filed a writ against the State Bank of Pakistan, alleged that State Bank of Pakistan was responsible for the present crisis. The State Bank has the total authority to institute a criminal case against any one indulging in illegal banking practices which is what these cooperatives were doing. But the bank never took any action because State Bank Official were reportedly bribed by these corporations.

Statistics are not available about the loans acquired by the big groups. According to details published in the Economist (London) at least 4.4 billion rupees were borrowed by 16 politicians from IJI. Ittefaq Group one of largest borrowers from the biggest of the troubled coops. Accordingly to Friday Times of Lahore a total Rs. 10.3 billion was obtained by big groups including Ittefaq (Rs. 4.5 billion) Chaudhry Brothers (Rs. 2.2 billion) Basharat Elahi (Rs. 1.7 billion) Saifullahs (Rs. 1.7 billion) It may be mentioned that Saifullahs are the in laws of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Senators Basharat Elahi is the brother-in-law of late Gen. Ziaul Haq.

The manner in which IJI leaders swindled public funds was like "borrowing from Peter to pay Paul" according to press reports. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan may finally be forced under strong public pressure to file a presidential reference against any of the four major borrowers, most probably against a family from Gujrat for reportedly applying loans form Bankers Equity in return for offering property as collateral which, reports say, is already mortgaged. An inquiry is also likely to be ordered by the President to extract facts of this plunder of public money.

The projects, for which the loans have been taken from DFIs include Ramzan Sugar Mills and Brothers Sugar Mills owned by the Ittefaq Group, Punjab Sugar Mills and Phalia Sugar Mills, owned by Chaudhries of Gujrat. Another huge borrower is IJI MNA Ch. Nazir Ahmed popularly known as Kohistanwala. He has borrowed Rs. one billion for his projects including Masood Textile Ltd. and Aized Beverages. Another important factor which has not come to the knowledge is writting off of loans.

Besides financing their projects a large part of the money was spent on the election campaign. Zulfikar Awan Chief of Services Credit Cooperative (SCCC) alleged that a sum of Rs. 200 million was spent on IJI election campaign. Perhaps due to this reason the Government has not come with heavy hand on coops. To pacify the depositors Punjab Government promulgeted two Ordinancess. The purpose of the ordinance stated is to help get back their money. However, the new ordinance ss erve no purpose because 18 months is quite a long period and is only meant to protect the plunderers and to let them disappear with the loot.

It is not understandable why the government is reluctant to dispose off the assets of NICFC and SCCCL and thus return the money to the depositors. Some say this extreme step could invite retaliation by the owners of the cooperatives who could make disclosures which many in power could not afford.

Let there be an enactment of law without any loss of time for curbing the operation of such finance cooperatives and freezing all their moveable and immoveable assets. Those who have disappeared should be prosecuted according to law.
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Title Annotation:Pakistan
Author:Haidari, Iqbal
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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