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Pakistani PM Names New Cabinet - 2004-09-01


Pakistan's new prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, has named a greatly expanded Cabinet, retaining most of the former ministers and adding at least 12 new faces.

The new cabinet includes all 20 members of the previous cabinet, and 12 additional new members. It also created several new positions of deputy minister, which are expected to be sworn in later this week. This was reportedly done in order to hand ministerial positions to more rank-and-file members of the ruling party. Shaukat Aziz, who was elected prime minister by Parliament Friday, is a close ally of President Pervez Musharraf.

Senior opposition leader Ehsan Iqbal claims Mr. Aziz is merely a puppet of the president, with no real power of his own.

"Unfortunately this present set-up does not reflect the mainstream politics of Pakistan," he said. "It is an artificial set-up which has been created by General Musharraf through rigging in the elections."

Mr. Iqbal says President Musharraf's controversial amendments to the constitution have given him extraordinary powers, not leaving any room for the new prime minister to function freely.

But the ruling party Secretary General Senator Mushahid Hussain dismisses that criticism.

"The president of Pakistan is a key political player and there is input on various issues, especially those pertaining to foreign policy and national security," he said. "But that does not mean that the prime minister of Pakistan is bereft of any power. The prime minister of Pakistan runs the government on a day-to-day basis and there is no stopping any prime minister in Pakistan."

In another development, Pakistani authorities said they have detained two al-Qaida suspects in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Senior Cabinet minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed identified one of those arrested as Sharif al-Misri, a citizen of Egypt.

The government declined to provide further details about the two men, except to say that they are "important" figures in the terror network.

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