February 11, 2011

New Cabinet Ministers Take Oath

The oath taking ceremony for the new members of the Cabinet took place in Islamabad on Friday.

In the first phase, the 21 cabinet members who took oaths included Babar Awan, Amin Fahim, Rehman Malik, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Firdaus Ashiq Awan, Naveed Qama, Ahmad Mukhtar and other senior politicians.

However, the main coalition partners were absent at the occasion.

Meanwhile, Hina Rabbani Khar also took the oath as a minister of state.

Cabinet dissolution: Zardari accepts resignations

As President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday accepted resignations of outgoing ministers, speculation increased in the federal capital on the names that would make it to the new set-up – believed to be smaller and more disciplined than the over-sized cabinet it replaces.

Spokesperson for the President, Farhatullah Babar, said in a late night statement that the president would administer oath to members of the incoming cabinet, possibly as early as Friday. On Wednesday, the 60-plus member federal cabinet of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani tendered its resignation in pursuance of a decision last week by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to cut down on the size of the cabinet.

The decision-making central executive committee (CEC) of the PPP last Friday authorised Prime Minister Gilani to dissolve his cabinet and form a new one with ‘fewer and more honest’ members.

Prime Minister Gilani who earlier met President Asif Ali Zardari to discuss the formation of the new cabinet, held a farewell dinner for the outgoing members on Thursday evening.

During the dinner speeches, both Prime Minister and President said that those who would not be able to get a slot in the new cabinet “would be sacrificing for the party and the nation.”

But back-door meetings among different stakeholders and groups continued late on Thursday night. Few were in a mood to sacrifice. After long deliberations, a group of parliamentarians from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) prevailed on another group by nominating a new face as their candidate for federal minister.

There are many other issues to tackle. The government has thus far failed to bring back their disgruntled former allies MQM, and JUI-F back into the coalition, making many members of the ruling party feeling politically vulnerable.

“We are sacking a failed team but not replacing its captain. It will not make any difference,” remarked a PPP MNA who wished to remain anonymous.

According to sources, some members of the ruling party are trying to increase the pressure on Gilani to resign by working behind the scenes to reveal allegations of corruption against the prime minister’s family.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has included Gilani’s son in an investigation of a financial scandal involving the Hajj ministry. Some PPP members said that other corruption cases involving the premier’s family might come to light over the next few days.

Sources inside the ruling PPP do not see any big changes in the new cabinet, expecting most high-profile ministers to retain a cabinet position, though the names of Faisal Raza Abdi and Fauzia Wahab have been mentioned as possible additions.

At the same time, party sources said that President Zardari believes sidelining prominent names would be tantamount to validating the stance of the opposition parties that these people were corrupt.

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