ISLAMABAD - The new federal cabinet seems a mix match of experienced and able old hands with a cautious experimentation of new faces, comprising mainly Punjab legislators from where PML-N returned triumph in the elections. The premier had little or no chance to pick and choose from Sindh, Balochistan or even KPK as only a few party legislators had made it to the Lower House of Parliament from these provinces.

Generally speaking, most of the faces making to the cabinet seem obvious choices for being old guards, heavyweight political personalities of their area, or being close confidants of the leadership. Interestingly, some prominent faces in this cabinet were also part of the 1997-99 Sharif cabinet. With no full fledge Defense and Foreign Affairs Minister for the moment, it seems the premier and his kitchen cabinet will make key decisions, and run the two ministries through advisors, yet to be appointed. Two key party Senators, also known as members of the inner Sharif circles - Ishaq Dar and Pervaiz Rashid - have clinched important federal ministries. Kamran Michael, a former Punjab Finance Minister in the last Shahbaz Sharif cabinet, is a surprise induction with a toothless ministry.

As they settle down in the coming days and weeks the big question that haunts the new ministers and their leadership is the ability to deliver in respective areas in the wake of enhanced public expectations amidst dwindling economy and worsened law and order situation.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is the most experienced hand in the new federal cabinet. But Interior Ministry is said to be his third preference after having been denied Punjab Chief Ministership and Foreign Ministry. One of the most experienced legislators making it to the parliament consecutively since 1985, Nisar was a vocal and effective Opposition Leader in the last assembly. A prominent power player, he has his roots in the military establishments of the day and yesteryears. Known as an egoist, sometimes his relations with Nawaz Sharif got so tense that he started weighing options to leave the party. As Interior Minister it will be a testing time for Nisar who preferred Petroleum Ministry in the last two PML-N governments.    

As in charge of country’s finances, Ishaq Dar faces perhaps the most difficult challenge of his professional life. He has been very close to Mian Nawaz Sharif since the last two decades or so. But successfully became his top most confidant after becoming father-in-law of Nawaz Sharif’s younger daughter. A chartered accountant turned successful businessman, Dar lately resigned as Opposition Leader in the Senate. He entered the inner most circle of the elder Sharif in the post military coup scenario as he went through mental and physical torture during his confinement days. He became Finance Minister in the last PML-N government in 1998, and then for a brief period in 2008 when the party pulled out of the coalition government in the center over the restoration of judiciary row with PPP.

Khawaja Mohammad Asif is a close confidant of Nawaz as well as Shahbaz Sharif. A seasoned parliamentarian, he was a Middle East based banker before jumping on to the political bandwagon in the footsteps of his father late Khawaja Safdar, who was considered a close aide to the then military ruler General Ziaul Haq. A firebrand, big throat orator, Khjawaja is known for his straightforward and clear headed approach. He has been assigned the top most hot seat of the day in the federal cabinet as Water and Power Minister. With little time and space available, Asif has to reduce loadshedding and come up with new cost effective projects. Success in this area will be a bonus; failure is not an option for his party and leadership.

Senator Pervaiz Rashid wields influence and power directly from Raiwind. As Information Minister is to look after the image and publicity of the new government. The premier is said to be all ears to the Senator, and his suggestions are given weightage. Ever since 1993 when he joined PML-N, he is considered a Sharif linchpin, opponents find hard to dislodge. His performance as Punjab government spokesman and real incharge of the provincial information department raised many a question throughout the past five years.   

Ahsan Iqbal will be planner-in-chief of this government. He rose to prominence in the PML-N ranks in 1993 as he entered the party ranks courtesy his mother Aapa Nisar Fatima (late) who also remained an MPA in 1990. Ahsan, an engineer from UET Lahore and a business management post-graduate from United States, became Deputy Chairman Planning Division in 1997. He lost in 2002 election, but returned triumph in 2008, becoming minister for education for a brief stint in 2008.

Shahid Khakhan Abbasi is another experienced hand, who lately became a big businessman as his family, owns a private airline carrier. Son of late Khakhan Abbasi, this man is a smooth operator, a reliable professional

As Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq will find it difficult where to start from. It’s a mess he has to deal with.  A multi-faceted personality who rose to prominence as a student leader and the son of Khawaja Mohammad Rafiq (late) who was a famous Leaguer from Lahore, Saad became an MPA in 1997, and MNA in 2002. He returned to the Lower House of Parliament in 2008. He has been given a gigantic task to turn around loss making Pakistan Railways into a viable entity.

Law Ministry is no hard task for Zahid Hamid who served the same ministry in the Shaukat Aziz cabinet. Zahid joined the Sharif bandwagon in later 2007 after serving the Musharraf regime for five years. Brother of Shahid Hamid, the then surprise pick of Nawaz Sharif in 1997 as Governor of Punjab, Zahid Hamid is a cool customer, who comes up with brainy and timely ideas. 

Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi is one of the few people from Sindh who were able to withstand the PPP onslaught, this time too. A top feudal of Sindh and son of former caretaker Prime Minister Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi, Murtaza qualifies to be part of this cabinet too. He was Communications Minister in the last PML-N government, now head of the Production Ministry. 

Safron ministry for Abdul Qadir Baloch is not a big task. A former corps commander of Quetta and then governor of the Balochistan province under the then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, broke ranks with his former boss as he had the guts to oppose a military operation in that restive province. He joined the PML-N ranks in 2008 and became a federal legislator.   

Rana Tanveer Hussain is also a close confidant of the premier. He keeps a low public profile, yet plays an effective role in the party rank and file and area politics. As an old guard, he made it to the cabinet this time in a big way. No challenge at hand, a settled and hassle free Kashmir Affairs ministry suits him well  

Anoushay Rehman was a surprise find of the PML-N, and she got elected on reserved women seats in year 2008. Her performance as a legislator on the floor of the house as well as in committees made her chances brighter for the cabinet slot. She is considered a close aide to Ishaq Dar, and was lately seen present in key decision making pre-and post-election meetings as Sharif consulted with Dar and an Anoushay attentive, all ears, in taking notes. As junior law minister she can rise and shine more. 

Sikandar Hyat Bosan is an old guard who left Imran Khan’s PTI for greener pastures of the PML-N. And having defeated the elder son of former premier Yuosaf Raza Gillani in these elections merited his inclusion in the federal cabinet. A heavyweight political personality from Multan, he had to be inducted to give representation to South Punjab. 

Sardar Mohammad Yousaf recently brought victories for PML-N in Mansehra after party’s dwindling popularity in the post-2008 scenario and by-elections. Recently it was the PTI Tsunami, Sardar Yuosaf and his colleagues faced, and deflected to some extent. He could not make it to the assemblies in 2002 and 2008 due to graduation restriction, his son Shahjahan Yuosaf got elected in his place and enjoyed ministry, PML-Q and Musharraf bandwagon in yesteryears.

One should not forget to mention Sadruddin Shah Rashidi. He has many feathers to his cap. Son of former Pir Pagaro, brother of latest Pir Pagaro. And father in law of former premier Gillani’s elder brother. Cousin of the present Punjab Governor. And what not. He is cut out to be a minister.

Khurram Dastgir, a well educated and well-reputed man from Gujranwala is son of famous Ghulam Dastgir Khan. He was eyeing a federal ministry due to his television talk show and parliamentary performance but had to content with a junior ministry. Jam Kamal is son of former Chief Minister Balochistan, late Jam Mohammad Yousaf. Party loyalties don’t matter in that part of Pakistan. For five years Jams enjoyed PML-Q government, now par of the PML-N. Mian Balighur Rehman is a few find. He assisted Punjab government as advisor uptill recently. Pir Aminul Hasnat is a first timer,  but made it to the cabinet as he downed the famous PPP man Nadeem Afzal Chan from Mandi Bhahauddin. Sheikh Aftab Ahmed knows how to please the leadership and especially Mian Nawaz Shairf. He is an experienced old guard.