Geelani rejects Info Minister Awan resignation

Karachi: Under fire for failing to handle affairs of the government and the ruling PPP properly, Pakistan`s Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan today announced her resignation, which was rejected by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Breaking into tears while announcing her resignation, 41-year-old Awan, who was elected to the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament from Sialkot, said she did not wish to carry on working as Minister for Information when her party and Cabinet colleagues were not satisfied with her performance.

She announced her resignation live on state-run television during a meeting of the federal Cabinet in Karachi chaired by Gilani, leaving her colleagues surprised and shocked. "I am submitting my resignation but will continue to provide my full support and backing to the party and government," said Awan.

Addressing Gilani, she said: "While endorsing your leadership, I don`t think I can continue as a member of the Cabinet." She said the contributions of the coalition partners of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party represented "a way forward for our democratic vision".

Awan told Gilani: "I believe that under your leadership and in the ownership of the President, we have to move forward." After her announcement, the Prime Minister has had a one-to-one meeting with Awan and "told her she should continue to carry on her duties as minister," a spokesman for the PM House said.

Geo News reported that Awan, during her meeting with the Prime Minister who rejected her resignation, had also conveyed some of her reservations about problems in her ministry and the state-run Pakistan television.

The Information Minister had in recent times come in for severe criticism from the media and had also been the subject of ridicule for her controversial and contradictory statements and press announcements on government affairs.

She was strongly criticised when she held a press conference in Islamabad with another PPP minister Babar Awan after the Supreme Court ordered a probe into a secret memo sent to the US seeking its help to avert a possible coup in Pakistan following the killing of Osama bin Laden in a covert American raid in Abbottabad on May 2.

The two had lashed out at the judiciary and used harsh language, prompting Chief Justice Iftikhar M Chaudhry to ask Gilani to make the government`s stance clear.

Firdous Awan was also criticised for her contradictory statements when President Asif Zardari had to rush to Dubai recently for medical treatment, which led to confusion and rumours in the country about the impending removal of the government.

Sources said the federal Cabinet had asked Awan to reconsider her resignation soon after her announcement.

Awan was the third PPP leader to hold the information portfolio since the current government came to power in early 2008.

Her predecessors were Sherry Rehman, currently Pakistan`s Ambassador-designate to the US, and Qamar Zaman Kaira.