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ISLAMABAD, May 13: The nine federal ministers of the Pakistan Muslim League-N submitted their resignations to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday.

The PML-N decided on Monday to quit the cabinet because of what it termed the government’s failure to reinstate the deposed judges by May 12 as promised earlier by the leadership of the PML-N and Pakistan People’s Party.

Prime Minister Gilani asked the ministers to continue to hold their offices till the matter was discussed with PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari who would return home soon. “Let’s wait and try to resolve the matter,” he said.

He said Mr Zardari had advised him not to accept the resignations till his return.

The PML-N ministers, led by senior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, met the prime minister at a luncheon hosted by the latter for the members of the cabinet and submitted the resignations.

Prime Minister Gilani called PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif who assured him of his party’s continued support to the government for strengthening democratic institutions.

Addressing a news conference with other PML-N ministers, Chaudhry Nisar said that his party’s decision was final and it mattered little whether the resignations were sent by the prime minister to the president for approval or not. “There is no question of withdrawing the resignations or holding them in abeyance and it is not possible for us to wait for any decision.

“When there is a new proposal or any move towards reinstatement of the judges, we will respond to it,” he said.

He said the PML-N would defend its provincial government in Punjab but would not bother if it was lost for achieving bigger objectives. He said his party had formed the government after gaining majority in the provincial assembly.

He said the PML-N ministers had to swallow a second bitter pill, after having been administered oath by Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, by addressing him as ‘President (ex-officio)’ in the resignation because they did not recognise him as legitimately elected president.

He reiterated that his party would neither get involved, directly or indirectly, in the government’s decision-making process nor in destabilising it.

PML-N information secretary Ahsan Iqbal said President Musharraf was like a computer virus in the democratic system and democracy could not work smoothly till he was ousted.

Speaking at the lunch hosted by him, the prime minister said the country was in grip of a crisis and joint efforts by all political forces were required to strengthen democracy. “We are determined to take the nation out of the crisis with the cooperation of our allies.”

Referring to Mr Sharif’s assurances to keep the coalition intact, he said the people wanted more. He said the people believed that “when we have joined hands we should take this country out of the crisis”.

Chaudhry Nisar said it was a unique experience that the two major parties, which had opposed each other over the past 18 years and had different manifestoes, had joined hands to steer the country out of the crisis.

An official at the Prime Minister’s House said Mr Gilani had not yet accepted the resignations. “A decision will be taken after PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s return from London.”

The PML-N ministers held the charge of 15 federal ministries.

The portfolios of the ministers who resigned are: Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan (senior minister, communications with additional charge of food and agriculture), Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (commerce), Tehmina Daultana (science and technology), Rana Tanveer (defence production), Ahsan Iqbal (education with additional charge of minorities), Mohammad Ishaq Dar (finance, revenue, economic affairs and statistics), Khwaja Mohammad Asif (petroleum and natural resources with additional charge of sports), Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan (railways) and Khwaja Saad Rafique (culture with additional charge of youth affairs).