So there we have it. One of the names that had been making the rounds when the composition of the caretaker government was under discussion has finally made it to the cabinet. Just a few days after Kausar Abdullah Malik was inducted into the interim setup at the federal level, Fawad Hasan Fawad, a former bureaucrat, has been made a federal minister. With his induction, the cabinet has swelled to 26.
For those who might need a refresher to recall who Fawad Hasan Fawad is; he was a close confidant and the former principal secretary to the then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. In his long career of over 33 years, Fawad Hasan Fawad served as deputy commissioner in Quetta and Lahore, secretary in the excise and taxation, communication and works, health and S&GAD. He also remained the secretary to former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Before his retirement, he served as the director general of the Civil Service Academy in Lahore. He was considered the most influential bureaucrat during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s tenure. However in 2018, he was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in corruption cases pertaining to the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme and three other projects. He was also accused of owning illegal assets, misusing his authority and inflicting loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer.
He got bail after his date of retirement in 2020 in the assets beyond means case after he submitted surety bonds worth Rs10 million. After NAB failed to provide any solid evidence against him, an accountability court acquitted Fawad as well as his wife and brother in February this year. Fawad’s induction raises some questions? One, why is there a need to keep on expanding the cabinet when its term is limited to 90 days and its mandate is to only hold elections as early as possible? Second, being a PML-N man, if elections are held, would it not make the whole exercise controversial?
The interim information minister, Murtaza Solangi, claims that the cabinet is not very big, as the number of federal ministers stood at 18 with the latest additions. Under these circumstances, the electoral process could face delay, which would only increase more problems for the country. The political parties have already started squabbling, with the Jamiat Ulema-I-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) making it clear that there was no room of forging an alliance with the Pakistan People’s Party ( PPP).
Even Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has differed with his father, Asif Ali Zardari, on the election date issue, insisting that the polls should be held within the constitutionally set timeframe.
He even went on to say that there was lack of a level playing field in the run-up to the general elections, stressing on the need to do away with outdated methods of running the country.
On the PML-N front, Nawaz Sharif’s date of return to the country has been announced. And it is October 21.
There is a reason behind the voices getting louder in support of holding elections on time. The cabinet expansion appears to be one such reason.