New cabinet takes oath in politically uncertain Pakistan

Islamabad, Apr 19 (EFE).- Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s new cabinet took oath on Tuesday amid an ongoing political crisis that has gripped the country after ex-premier Imran Khan lost a parliamentary no-trust vote.

Notably, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, widely tipped to be the all-important foreign minister in the Sharif government, did not take the oath even as he was present at the ceremony.

PPP spokesperson Mustafa Khokhar told EFE that Hina Rabbani Khar would be the minister of state for foreign affairs, and any decision regarding Zardari would be taken later.

Khar, 44, was the foreign minister of Pakistan from March 2008 to February 2011 in the government of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.

The swearing-in of the new cabinet got delayed amid talks over ministerial berths among the ruling coalition led by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

President Arif Alvi, who was to administer the oath to the new cabinet, went on leave on Monday due to health reasons, causing further delay.

Instead, Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani presided over the ceremony at the presidency and administered the oath to 31 federal ministers and three junior ministers.

Sanjrani had also administered the oath as acting president to Prime Minister Sharif on Apr.11 after Alvi, one of the founding members of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, refused, citing bad health.

Sharif is likely to announce the portfolios of the ministers later.

The cabinet formation took more than a week after Sharif assumed his charge as the prime minister.

Sources said the prime minister held consultations among his allies in the government on the distribution of ministries.

Those who took oath included 14 ministers from Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-B), nine from Pakistan Peoples Party, and four from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl.

Khokhar said Rana Sanaullah from PML-N was a likely interior minister.

Lawmakers from the former primer minister’s party resigned from the National Assembly, or lower house of the parliament, amid an unending political uncertainty in the country of 220 million people after Khan’s ouster.

The political turmoil has spilled over to the eastern Punjab province.

Hamza Shehbaz Sharif, son of the incumbent prime minister, was elected as chief minister of Punjab on Apr.16 in a controversial provincial assembly vote.

Governor Punjab Omar Sarfraz Cheema from Khan’s party refused to administer the oath to the chief minister due to rules violations in his election.

The prime minister has dismissed the governor, but President Alvi is yet to sign the dismissal summary.

Enraged over his ouster ostensibly over an unprecedented economic crisis and rising inflation, Khan has refused to recognize Sharif’s government and vowed to hold country-wide demonstrations for early general elections.

He is holding his next rally on Thursday in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab.

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