Qureshi absent at swearing-in of new Pak Cabinet
Islamabad: Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was known for his less—than friendly attitude towards India, is no longer the foreign minister of Pakistan as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reconstituted his cabinet on Friday.
A voluble leader, 54-year-old Qureshi, who headed the foreign ministry in the PPP government since March 2008, today refused to take oath as a cabinet minister after it became known that he was not going to get the foreign affairs portfolio.
Offered Water and Power portfolio, the former foreign minister was apparently reluctant to join the government, PPP spokesperson Fauzia Wahab told PTI.
A lawyer by profession, Qureshi was considered a hardliner because of his apparent proximity to the Army. At a press conference with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna in July last year, he equated Home Secretary G K Pillai’s comments to those of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed. He also said that Krishna often got calls from India during the bilateral talks and left the room for consultations.
For now, the foreign ministry will be looked after by Hina Rabbani Khar, who was minister of state for finance in the dissolved cabinet, sources said.
The 34-year-old has been participating in discussions with the World Bank and the IMF for financial reforms in Pakistan and is familiar with western leaders.
A total of 21 federal ministers and a minister of state were administered the oath of office by President Asif Ali Zardari at a ceremony in the presidency.
The new cabinet also retained several key ministers.
The state-run PTV had reported earlier in the day that Qureshi would be among 23 ministers who would take oath but he was not among those who administered the oath of office by the President.
TV news channels quoted their sources as saying that Qureshi refused to take oath after the PPP’s leadership told him that he would not be given the foreign affairs portfolio.
One report said Qureshi had expressed his inability to accept a ministerial post due to “domestic problems“.
Gilani’s old cabinet had resigned earlier this week as part of an exercise to refurbish the Pakistan People’s Party-led government’s flagging image.
The new cabinet is smaller but retained many old members.
Former ministers re-inducted into the cabinet include Rehman Malik (former interior minister), Abdul Hafeez Sheikh (former finance minister), Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar (former defence minister), Amin Fahim (former commerce minister) and Naveed Qamar (former petroleum minister).
The new ministers inducted in the cabinet are Mian Raza Rabbani, Engineer Shaukatullah, Changeez Jamali, Sardar Muhammad Gargej and Haji Khuda Bakhsh Rajar.
Prominent among those dropped from the cabinet were former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and former power minister Raja Parvez Ashraf, who had been facing criticism for their performance.
The portfolios of the new members will be announced later, officials said.
Prime Minister Gilani, who was present at the oath-taking ceremony, had dissolved his cabinet with nearly 60 ministers and ministers of state after the main opposition PML-N and Western donors, including the International Monetary Fund, demanded reforms and cuts in government spending.
The government is also required to downsize the cabinet in line with a landmark constitutional reforms package passed by parliament last year.
Under the 18th constitutional amendment, the size of the cabinet should not be more than 11 per cent of the total strength of parliament.
Gilani was also not happy with the performance of some ministers and wanted to remove them, official sources said.
Analysts said the retention of most of the former ministers will invite criticism from opposition parties, which have accused some PPP ministers of being involved in corruption.