Darshan Lal: First Hindu in federal cabinet in 20 years

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 6, 2017

As the newly sworn-in Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, formed his cabinet on Friday, one name stood out in the robust exercise that saw federal and state ministerial positions swell from 25 under Nawaz Sharif to 47, that of Darshan Lal Punshi - the first Hindu cabinet minister in Pakistan in almost 25 years. The decision was announced on Friday as the new Prime Minister Shahaid Khaqan Abbasi formulated his cabinet.

Formerly a practicing doctor in Mirpur Mathelo town of Sindh province's Ghotki district, Darshan Lal was allotted the portfolio of inter-provincial coordination shortly after being sworn in as a member of the Abbasi cabinet.

This is Lal's second stint in the National Assembly, Pakistan's Lower House, after being elected in 2013 on a PML-N ticket under reservation for minorities.

Ishaq Dar, a powerful finance minister, returns in the same role, despite a criminal investigation ordered against him by the Supreme Court. Khawaja Asif, a close ally of Sharif, who had earlier controlled defense and power ministries, was appointed as the Foreign Minister. But he retains control of PML-N and put forward Abbasi as temporary prime minister until Nawaz's brother Shahbaz Sharif becomes eligible to take over by winning a parliamentary by-election.

There are 28 federal ministers and 19 state ministers in the new cabinet, nearly double Sharif's 25-strong cabinet when he swept the 2013 polls.

According to analysts cited by Reuters, the size of the cabinet has been doubled keeping the upcoming generals in mind. "It shows that it's all about the next election", Pakistani writer and analyst Zahid Hussain said.

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