The full Monty
The incoming Obama administration may after all have something to learn from us. The Americans think they know everything but they have some ways to go when it comes to determining the size of the presidential cabinet.
It is hard to believe that the entire presidential cabinet, which includes the vice president, totals just fifteen. No wonder the US president does not have the advice he needs, because half the time these people are simply not around, having taken their kids for soccer practice.
All that President Bush has by way of a cabinet are his Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defence, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labour, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, plus the Attorney General. Under Bush, cabinet rank also has been given to the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Management and Budget, the National Drug Control Policy and the office of the US Trade Representative.
Even Liechtenstein, which you can walk through in its entirety in 30 minutes, has a larger cabinet.
America likes to think that it is the one and only superpower in the world today and nothing moves unless there is a nod from Washington that it may so do. That is an illusion because fifteen people can’t even run a dogcatcher’s office efficiently.
Pakistan certainly has something to teach America. We may not be America’s size and we may not be chasing sheep in Afghanistan or catching rabbits in Iraq, but we certainly know how to do some things. We don’t believe in half measures, which is why we do not have a puny federal cabinet as the Americans have. We have the full Monty.
On Monday, November 3, the people’s government finally expanded the federal cabinet in response to popular demand. Also, from across the border, they had begun making fun of us for our itsy-bitsy cabinet. Only a bikini should be itsy-bitsy, not a cabinet, we finally realised.
Everyone is happy now that Makhdoom Amin Faheem, who writes poetry and had recently come to be known as Makhdoom Naraaz Halavi, has been persuaded to join the boys. Management wizards have gone to work and the results are wondrous to behold. Where there was one ministry, there are now two and at places three. It is like not one but several rabbits being produced from a conjurer’s hat.
The communications ministry is no longer a monolith, likewise the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. They have laid eggs. The division of Postal Services has been separated from Communications and a new ministry of Postal Services has taken birth, though by Caesarean section. The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock has been bifurcated to carve out a new ministry called the Ministry of Livestock and Dairy Development. The mother Ministry of Food and Agriculture remains in existence to ensure that food shortages are not interfered with.
To the surprise of some, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has been chopped up into three ministries, namely Minorities Affairs, Zakat and Ushr and of course the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which should be renamed Ministry of Affairs. The Ministry of Population Welfare also needs to be renamed Ministry of Population Farewell considering that the un-Islamic practice of population control has stood abandoned since Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s time.
I am, however, mystified by the appointment of one Lal Muhammad Khan as Minister of Special Initiatives. What those initiatives are has not been explained. It is possible that Mr Khan may end up poking his big red nose in everyone’s affairs. I was also hoping that the elegant Sherry Rehman, Minister of Information, will be relieved of the crown of thorns placed on her head but it seems she has to suffer it till the next reshuffle, which, given the times we are living through, should not be long in coming.
While I am happy that at least 57 of our citizens have something to do, I am afraid, given the shrinking office space in Islamabad, they may have to remain at home, twiddling their toes and phoning the Estate Office, only to be greeted by the announcement, “Aapka matlooba number badal gya hai. Brah-e-mehrbani nayay number par phone karain.”
To get the new number you have to call another number which also turns out to have been changed, which means you call another number etc. In any case, that is one way to pass the day in the nation’s capital.
There are some spoilsports on the Internet who don’t share the excitement that the rest of the nation feels because of the expanded cabinet. One of them writes:
“You have to admit we Pakistanis are a lucky bunch. Not only is the cabinet now composed of 57 selfless, devoted servants of the people, but several ministries in government have been bifurcated so as to accommodate them. Isn’t that just wonderful? But there is more. If you think you have heard the last of this breathlessly exciting cabinet expansion, hold on to your hats. It appears there are several disgruntled elements waiting on the sidelines, who will, in time, be accommodated. Praise the Lord and pass that spittoon.”
Another writes, “My understanding is that five more will be inducted by the end of the year. We obviously need funds from Friends of Democratic Pakistan to keep all of them in good humour, and of course well protected from those wild Taliban, so additional foreign exchange financing would surely be handy to urgently augment the fleet of bulletproof vehicles.”
One joker says by providing the new inductees bulletproof limos, we would be depriving them of the opportunity to embrace martyrdom, which a roadside bomb might have delivered. This pious suggestion produces the following response from another cyberspace vagabond.
“If one’s fate is pre-ordained, Allah will now choose the most worthy among the now naked ministers for martyrdom. I see a new financial sector service industry emerging here, where odds are placed on a given gentleman’s (no reason to exempt women, I suppose) probability of martyrdom by such-and-such date. One could even place odds on the method of martyrdom. This transaction could then be hedged with a parallel ‘martyrdom-default’ swap. If the government moved quickly, it could create and control such a market in short order, and conceivably make billions. People might even pay the government up front to become ministers in order to have the honour of being part of the probability pool.”
What is wrong with these johnnies, I ask you?