Cracks Develop In AJK Cabinet

11 February 2009
Pakistan Observer

Islamabad: Political watchers see serious “cracks” developing fast in the 4-party coalition cabinet in Azad Kashmir with Sardar Qamar Zaman Khan, Health Minister, likely to stage his “exit” from the cabinet, sources told Pakistan Observer here late Wednesday night. Reportedly a lot of at least ten more AJK ministers forms a group with him as his sympathizers. Sardar Qamar Zaman (PPP-AJK Bagh), till joining the coalition government in AJK was Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, an office bagged by him with the blessings of PPP chairperson Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto in July 2006. The President of the PPP-AJK is Chaudhry Abdul Majeed (Mirpur). However, Sardar Qamar’s demand from day one of the 4-party coalition government in AJK since Jan 6, 2009, was to install him as Senior Minister in the cabinet, an obligatory office provided in the AJK Interim Constitution Act 1974. Senior Minister in AJK takes over the functions of the Prime Minister when the latter is out of the country under the Constitution. This is strictly the constitutional position and requirement. Therefore some minister has got to be appointed as Senior Minister in AJK. Meanwhile the name of another senior PPP-AJK leader Chaudhary Latif Akber (Muzaffarabad), now minister in AJK cabinet, but then Kashmir Council Advisor to Prime Minister of Pakistan, started appearing in the power portals in Islamabad and in Muzaffarabad simultaneously as a strong choice for the slot of Senior Ministership. Both “contenders” belonged to the PPP ruling party at the Federal level, therefore the matter for final choice naturally reached the corridors of power in Islamabad. As a via media “the powers” then decided not to appoint any of them as Senior Minister, forgetting that the appointment as Senior Minister is not a party option, but a constitutional obligation essential to be met in order to avoid attracting violation of the AJK Interim Constitution Act 1974 under which the whole edifice of governance functions in AJK. The office of Senior Minister in AJK is still un-filled. But later on Sardar Qamar Zaman who was given the portfolio of Health had had his keen eyes, as sources say, on the mass-based portfolio of Local Government and Rural Development. But that slot too slipped away to some other coalition Minister. Now, sources say, Sardar Qamar feels as “twice denied” but having the support of a group of at least ten more ministers. “He and his sympathizing Ministers group may stage an exit from cabinet soon if their frustration is not cared for”, sources confided late night to the Pakistan Observer here. Cabinet in AJK was formed in two instalments last month.