MQM, JUI-F won’t join PM’s new ‘lean and mean’ team

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ISLAMABAD – The en masse resignations of the federal ministers enabling Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to form a new “lean and mean” team triggered an intense lobbying for the slots in the new cabinet with President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani making a last ditch effort to convince the MQM and JUI-F to join the federal cabinet.
The resignations of the federal ministers, ministers of state and advisers were sent to President Zardari for acceptance. However, they would continue performing their duties until a new cabinet is announced. In the first phase, 15 to 20 ministers are likely to take oath in a day or two.
A source told Pakistan Today that following the PM’s opening statement at the cabinet meeting, all ministers submitted their resignations. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira collected them and handed them to the PM.
“Only seven or eight ministers will be reappointed with mostly new faces making it to the federal cabinet for the first time as part of the new team. In the first phase, the ministers will be taken on a proportionate basis and around six ministers are likely to be taken from Punjab, four from Sindh, two from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one from Balochistan,” said the source.
The source said there was also a 50-50 chance that Shah Mehmood Qureshi would again be given the portfolio of foreign minister. Asked who could replace Qureshi in case it goes against him, the source said there was no decision as yet. However, the source said former FM Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali was a strong contender.
“Those who are likely to be dropped are Firdous Ashiq Awan, Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Arbab Alamgir Khan,” the source said, adding that Ahmed Mukhtar, Amin Fahim, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Babar Awan, Rehman Malik, Naveed Qamar, Asma Arbab Alamgir, Najamuddin Khan and Khurshid Shah are most likely to be reappointed.
“The portfolios of Qamar Zaman Kaira, Khurshid Shah, Ahmed Mukhtar and Amin Fahim are likely to be changed while Babar Awan, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Rehman Malik and Naveed Qamar are likely to retain their subjects. Raja Pervez Ashraf may also be one of the losers.”
The source said per the government’s initiative to merge some ministries in a bid to keep the size of the cabinet as small as possible, Naveed Qamar might be given the portfolio of minister for energy – merging the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Water and Power.
“Likewise, ministries of law and justice, human rights and parliamentary affairs will be merged with Babar Awan as its minister. The ministries of Communications, Railways and Postal Services are also likely to be merged with Amin Fahim most probably as its minister,” the source said.
Ahmed Mukhtar, who is also an industrialist, could be appointed minister for commerce or minister for textiles. He had served as commerce minister in the Benazir government. Asma Arbab Alamgir is likely to be given the portfolio of minister for women development while the portfolio for Najamuddin Khan is yet to be decided. Another source said some new faces are also likely to make it to the cabinet in case the MQM and JUI-F decline to join it.
“In such a scenario, Abdul Qadir Patel will be inducted as minister for ports and shipping, while Sughra Imam can also be inducted in the cabinet,” added the source. The source said the Ministry of Religious Affairs would be kept open for any possible nominee of JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman, whereas the portfolio of the Defence Ministry would remain with Gilani keeping in view the sensitivity of the ongoing war on terror.
Meanwhile, the MQM and JUI-F appeared firm on their earlier stance of not rejoining the federal cabinet despite repeated offers, amidst consultations for inductions in the new cabinet. JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman held separate meetings with the president and PM. JUI-F spokesman Amjad Khan said his party was offered to rejoin the government but Fazl told both leaders that the government remained no more a priority of the JUI-F.
A source in the MQM told Pakistan Today that the party would not rejoin the PPP-led government unless their grievances pertaining to the political affairs in Sindh were addressed. The party also wanted the government to implement its nine-point agenda before moving to the federal cabinet, he said. A government source said that under the agreed formula among the coalition partners, the JUI-F and MQM, if they agree to rejoin the government, would each be offered two ministries.
The ANP would get one ministry in the first phase. However, the source added another ministerial slot would be offered to the party in the second phase of formation of the cabinet. One ministerial slot would be given each to PML-F, BNP-Awami and FATA parliamentarians, the source said.