As expected, Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has kept the Finance Ministry for himself and retained Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed as Foreign Minister and Information Minister respectively, as he allocated portfolios to 32 members of his Cabinet.
A significant change in the allocation of the ministeries was, however, the removal of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto supporter-turned President Pervez Musharraf loyalist Faisal Saleh Hayat from the powerful Interior Ministry to obscure Kashmir Affairs.
Aziz, who came under criticism from the media and opposition parties, for expanding the size of the Cabinet from 27 to 32, retained most of the ministers in the previous Zafarullah Khan Jamali and Shujaat Hussain cabinets yesterday.
He, however, shifted the balance power in favour of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q by allocating prime portfolios to its legislators.
Musharraf swore in the 32-member Cabinet on Tuesday.
In addition to the 32, another set of 20 to 24 ministers of state were expected to be sworn-in shortly to accommodate young and aspiring supporters of the government.
Kasuri will be going New Delhi tomorrow to take part in two-day talks with his Indian counterpart K Natwar Singh.
Hayat, who led the revolt in Bhutto-led Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) after the 2002 mid-term polls and defected to Musharraf's camp with about 20 Parliamentarians of the party, lost the portfolio to fellow defector Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao. Both have faced several corruption cases in the past.
Another PPP defector Nouraiz Shakoor, who held the portfolio of Petroleum and Natural Gas in the previous
ministry, was made Science and Technology Minister.
Former ISI chief General (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi has become education minister, replacing the reformist minister, Zubaida Jalal, who drew the ire of Islamist parties for bringing too many changes in the curriculum.
Jalal was Minister for Women Development and Special Education.
Another allocation of interest was retention of Ijaz-ul Haq as Minister for Religious Affairs. Haq, son of former military ruler Gen Zia ul Haq, has ruled out some of the controversial Islamic laws like the Hadood ordinance brought in by his father.
Humayun Akhtar Khan, son of a former ISI general, has been retained as Commerce Minister.
The virtual retention of old ministers, many of whom who do not have a good image among public, as well as increase in size of the ministry has come under sharp criticism from the local media, which termed it as a 'poor start' for Aziz, who has promised to bring in administrative and economic reforms.