Musharraf Appoints Caretaker Prime Minister and Cabinet

Pervez Musharraf appointed Muhammad Mian Soomro, a loyalist and chairman of the Senate, as caretaker prime minister. Soomro, as Senate chairman, was in line to succeed Musharraf as president. In that capacity, he is now replaced by Chaudhry Amir Hussain. GEO reports that Salman Shah, an economic adviser to former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, will be minister of finance — an uncontroversial appointment.

The choice of Salman Taseer as minister of commerce is, however, surprising. Taseer, a prominent Pakistani businessman, owns WorldCall, the Daily Times (pictured above), and the Business Plus channel (which signed on to Musharraf’s media code of conduct). He is also a former PPP politician and author of a favorable biography of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir’s father.

His paper’s editorials have consistently been in favor of a Bhutto-Musharraf deal. It is unclear as to whether Taseer’s appointment is a confidence building measure with Bhutto.

Others in the 15-member cabinet include: Nisar Memon, information minister; retired Lt. Gen. Hamid Nawaz, interior minister; and Inam ul Haq, foreign minister. The familiar faces make this cabinet, in many senses, a return to Musharraf’s 2002-3 cabinet.

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Tuesday Wrap-Up: Imran gets IJT’d; Battle of the Bhuttos;

  • Musharraf: Uniform off by end of month; doesn’t budge on emergency rule (ER)
  • White House: Free and fair elections not possible under ER; Negroponte arrives on Friday
  • Army support of Musharraf appears to remain strong
  • Swatting Swat: Full-scale army-led operations in effect; Internally-displaced persons in the thousands
  • Caretaker prime minister to be appointed on Thursday; Muhammad Mian Soomro leads the pack:
    • If Soomro is chosen, the impact on presidential succession and dissolution of parliament is unclear. Senate chairman (was Soomro) is in line to succeed Musharraf should he vacate the presidency, with National Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain next in line. It appears both Senate chairman and NA speaker remain in office until new parliament convenes.
  • Musharraf’s “Mission Accomplished”: The National Assembly completed its term for the first time in Pakistan’s history
  • Operation Petty Stakes: The Islami Jamiat-e Tulaba (IJT), student wing of the Jamaat-e Islami (JI), seized Imran Khan during his rally at Punjab University. They detained him in a campus building and handed him over to police. Khan might be tried on anti-terror charges.
    • Khan has been allied with JI for some time. JI leadership condemned the IJT’s moves. A spokesperson said, “It seems like our student supporters reacted this way because of an ego issue…They didn’t want Imran to steal their limelight. We condemn this action.” However, three points need to be considered:
      1. The JI is reportedly working with the PML-Q on seat adjustment for the upcoming elections.
      2. Imran Khan is effectively an anti-establishment politician and, regardless of their differences, the major political parties are potentially threatened by his rise.
      3. The IJT is somewhat autonomous from the JI. Along with the student wing of the MQM, it has terrorized Pakistani university campuses for years. Though their actions against Khan could simply be defense of what they see as their turf, it is also probable that they could have at the behest of the intelligence services with or without the consent of the JI leadership.
  • Battle of the Bhuttos: Benazir Bhutto sets a record for op-eds published while under house arrest; Fatima Bhutto, Benazir’s niece, tells the West that her aunt isn’t all that she seems
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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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