Pakistan's new government will start with small cabinet
( dpa ) - Pakistan's new coalition government will start with about 23 cabinet ministers and expand from there, a spokesman for the largest party said Friday.
"It will be about 22 or 23 to start, the exact number has not been finalized," Pakistan People's Party (PPP) spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa Friday.
The distribution of ministries will be based on the number of seats each of the coalition partners won in the February 18 election, he said, adding the cabinet line-up was still under consideration and will be announced in the comings days.
The PPP of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto won the most seats in the election, 121, and picked from their party Yousuf Raza Gillani as prime minister to lead the government. He was sworn in Tuesday. They will have about 10 cabinet ministers.
Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz came second in the election winning 91 seats and will be given the second highest number of ministry portfolios, seven or eight, Babar said.
Other smaller partners in the coalition include the Northwest Frontier Province-based Awami National Party (ANP), which won 13 seats, and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) which won six.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which won 25 seats in the election, is considering joining the coalition after party member voted for Gillani as prime minister over the opposition's Chaudhry Pervez Elahi.
Babar said the cabinet will be expanded in future, but the coalition partners have agreed they want to keep it much smaller than former prime minister Shaukat Aziz who had more than 70 in his cabinet.
After a year in which Pakistan saw a state of emergency, the dismissal of top judges, a boycotted presidential election and the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, the new government is starting with popular support and high hopes.
But Gillani and his government face a daunting list of challenges, including soaring fuel prices and other essential items, nationwide chronic electric power shortages and national security issues.