For the first time in twenty years, Pakistan’s Cabinet will have a Hindu member. President Mamnoon Hussain on Friday sworn-in the new Cabinet led by interim prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, which also included Dr Darshan Lal, a PML-N legislator from Sindh province.
According to Reuters, Lal was allotted the responsibility of overseeing co-ordination between the four provinces of Pakistan: Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
According to The Indian Express, Lal used to be a doctor in Sindh’s Ghotki district. Sindh is home to about 90 percent of Pakistan’s Hindu population.
Lal was elected to the National Assembly for the second time under PML-N’s minority quota, the report noted.
Reuters also noted that under former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N courted the minority vote, using symbolic gestures at odds with its conservative base.
Pakistan has had a two Hindu Cabinet ministers in the past. While Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Scheduled Caste legislator from Bengal, was Pakistan’s first law minister, Rana Chander Singh, a veteran leader from Umerkot, a Hindu-dominated district in Sindh, served as a Cabinet minister under Benazir Bhutto.
The new Cabinet largely retained old faces but some new leaders were included as ministers and ministers of state. There are 28 federal ministers and 19 state ministers in the new Cabinet, almost double Sharif’s 25-strong Cabinet when he swept the 2013 polls.
Khawaja Asif was appointed as the country’s first full-time foreign minister since 2013, when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party came to power.
Ahsan Iqbal was appointed the interior minister and former trade minister Khurrum Dastigir Khan was given the defence portfolio.
However, the powerful former interior minister Nisar Ali Khan was excluded from the new Cabinet after he refused to join due to differences with the party leadership.
The transition to the new Cabinet happened a week after Sharif’s ouster on 28 July. Abbasi, a die-hard Nawaz Sharif loyalist, was on Tuesday elected as the interim prime minister by the National Assembly. Shehbaz Sharif will take over from Abbasi after he is elected to the National Assembly in a by-election.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court had ordered Nawaz to step down and ruled that graft cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama Papers scandal. It was the third time the 67-year-old veteran politician’s term as premier has been cut short.
Nawaz was disqualified from holding his office as the judges ruled that he had been dishonest to parliament and the courts and could not be deemed fit for office. Finance minister Ishaq Dar and captain Safdar, who is a Member of National Assembly (MNA), were also disqualified from office.