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Bilawal may return as FM

Chairman Bilawal strongly condemns terror attack in Khuzdar, Balochistan

Insiders say PML-N and PPP were close to finalising a power-sharing deal

Mehtab Pirzada

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is likely to return as the country’s foreign minister as the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and PPP were close to finalising a power-sharing deal, according to people familiar with the development.

If the insiders are to be believed, Bilawal would join the cabinet of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as foreign minister. They said that an understanding between the party bigwigs was reached recently during their talks.

They claimed that Bilawal, who was initially reluctant to join the cabinet, agreed to become the foreign minister once again. The two sides are now working on the details and the timing of PPP formally joining the cabinet.

Sources said PM Shehbaz wanted the PPP to join the cabinet before the next budget to be presented in the first week of June. It is, however, not clear whether the PPP joins the cabinet before or after the budget. One thing is certain: the PPP will be part of the cabinet in June, according to sources.

The incumbent foreign minister, Ishaq Dar, was appointed as deputy prime minister to allow room for Bilawal to become the top diplomat.

Sources said that Dar’s office was being set up at the Prime Minister’s Office, and he would operate from there once he vacates the Foreign Office for Bilawal.

Dar, according to sources, was never comfortable as foreign minister as he always wanted to look after his favourite Finance Ministry. But Shehbaz and others in the PML-N wanted to keep him at bay.

Nevertheless, he managed to convince the prime minister to appoint him as his deputy. As deputy PM, he could potentially oversee the government’s economic policies once again.

Meanwhile, there has been a feeling within the PPP that Bilawal, when he served as foreign minister during the PDM government for 16 months, greatly enhanced his local and international profile.

They believe that Bilawal’s return to the Foreign Office would only benefit him and his party. The final decision regarding PPP joining the cabinet will be taken by its Central Executive Committee (CEC).

After the February 8 elections, the PPP decided to back PML-N to form the government but refused to join the cabinet. There was, however, an understanding between the two parties that PPP would be part of the government at a later stage.

Since the PML-N fulfilled its commitment by letting the PPP appoint its men as governors in three provinces besides clinching two other constitutional positions, the presidency and the chairmanship of Senate, the PPP would return the favour by joining the cabinet.

Sources in the Foreign Office said that Bilawal is a good choice as he proved himself to be an able foreign minister during his 16-month stint before the elections.

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