Pakistani president swears in members of new Cabinet

Pakistan on Friday swore in its new Cabinet, following a week of turmoil that included the election of a new prime minister after the resignation of his predecessor who was dismissed from office by the country’s Supreme Court for concealing family assets.

The portfolios of the ministers are to be announced later but some of the known changes in the new 43-member Cabinet include that Pakistan will get its first full-time foreign minister since the Pakistan Muslim League party came into power in 2013.

Thrice-elected former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government had no foreign minister, though the job was often handled by one of Sharif’s advisers, Sartaj Aziz.

Former Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif is being tipped to become the foreign minister.

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath of office to the Cabinet members — all considered Sharif loyalists — at a ceremony attended by diplomats, bureaucrats and senior military officials.

Earlier this week, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi replaced the 67-year-old Sharif, who was disqualified by the country’s top court last Friday for concealing assets — specifically, that his son’s Dubai-based company listed a monthly salary for him. Sharif claimed he never received any of that money.

Sharif’s party wants Abbasi to serve as an interim premier for 45 days or until Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif — the chief minister of Punjab province — wins a national assembly seat in a by-election.

The opposition has criticized this intention as dynastic and undemocratic, criticism that Abbasi rejects.

Sharif’s removal has also been criticized by legal experts, who say the Supreme Court judges were influenced by the country’s powerful military, which has had a rocky relation with Sharif.
The ex-premier has announced plans for a review petition in court to try and get his disqualification reversed.

Asma Jehangir, a respected constitutional expert, on Thursday criticized the judiciary and the military for exploiting their powers in disqualifying Sharif.

“Our hearts are sad on this day” and we miss Sharif, said Khawaja Saad Rafique, a leader of the ruling party, shortly before the swearing-in ceremony.

Among those included in the new Cabinet was Ishaq Dar, a close relative of Sharif who previously served as finance minister. His inclusion came as a surprise because of a Supreme Court order that he be charged with corruption.

Sharif’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, was not in the new Cabinet — he had resigned earlier this month over disagreements with Sharif. Khan is to be replaced by Ahsan Iqbal, who was minister for planning and development.

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