Gilani dissolves cabinet, will downsize it

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday dissolved the federal cabinet as part of an exercise to refurbish the image of his government that has been rocked by charges of inefficiency and corruption.

Gilani announced the dissolution of the cabinet during an address on state-run PTV after all members of the cabinet submitted their resignations during a meeting chaired by him this afternoon.

The ruling Pakistan People`s Party is also required to downsize the cabinet under the provisions of the 18th constitutional amendment, a landmark reforms package passed by parliament last year.

Besides, the government is facing pressure from the main opposition PML-N to reduce the size of the cabinet and cut spending.

Major Western powers and international donors like the US and the International Monetary Fund have called on Pakistan to reduce spending and implement wholesale economic reforms, including the introduction of a reformed tax regime.

Donors have also expressed concern about alleged corruption and misuse of funds.

Officials said the federal ministers submitted their resignations to enable Gilani to announce a new cabinet in line with decisions taken recently by the PPP`s central executive committee.

During his address, Gilani paid tribute to the members of his cabinet and thanked them for their support. The Prime Minister did not say when a new cabinet would be formed.

Analysts believe the PPP will face difficulties in striking deals with its coalition partners to accommodate members in a smaller cabinet mandated by the 18th constitutional amendment.

The outgoing cabinet had 52 members and Gilani is expected to form a new team with over 20 ministers.

During a meeting of the PPP`s central executive committee on February 4, party chief and President Asif Ali Zardari had authorised Gilani to dissolve the cabinet at a time of his choosing.

In his address, Gilani referred to the formation of the PPP-led government after the 2008 general election and said: "When we took over, we found this country in very difficult circumstances. The country was facing an economic meltdown and terrorism in which doubts were expressed on the sustainability of Pakistan as a nation."

"We successfully together steered this nation towards a sustainable path of economic recovery by initiating both short-term and long-term policies such as rationalisation of subsidies and a tremendous boost in the agricultural sector," he said.

Gilani listed the achievements of the government, saying foreign exchange reserves were at an "all time high" of over USD 17 billion while the stock exchange index had risen from 5,000 points three years ago to over 12,000 points.

The government, he said, will continue to work to take Pakistan "out of troubled waters towards a sustainable path".