PAKISTAN: Sharif names cabinet amid economic uncertainty

07 March 1997

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif named the first six members of his cabinet on 25 February, more than three weeks after winning the general election. Observers said that the delay could have been due to internal power struggles within the party and that the process was complicated by the formation of the Council for Defence & National Security by President Farooq Leghari before the election. The six ministers are:

Sartaj Aziz - Finance Minister

Gohar Atyub Khan - Foreign Affairs Minister

Shujaat Hussain - Interior Minister

Ishaq Dar - Commerce Minister

Nisar Ali Khan - Water & Power Minister

Abida Hussain - Population Welfare Minister

Sharif said that he will name more ministers at a later stage.

The prime minister has also announced economic measures which observers say send mixed signals to the IMF. The country currently has a standby agreement with the IMF which incorporates a budget deficit target of 4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Sharif has promised large cuts in government expenditure, except in the area of defence. At the same time, he has announced a wage rise for junior civil servants, an increase in state pensions, and a freeze on power, telephone and petrol charges. Sharif also announced possible tax cuts at a meeting with members of the business community on 26 February. Observers say that such measures could jeopardise the government's relations with the IMF, which could mean a second suspension of the standby agreement.

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