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Cabinet expansion not likely soon

February 12, 2011

Ms Awan said the govt had to leave out many honest and competent leaders to form a small but effective federal cabinet. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The induction of the second group of ministers into the federal cabinet may take several weeks, as the ruling Pakistan People's Party is waiting for a positive response on the issue from its estranged allies, according to sources.

The sources said the PPP leadership was continuing to discuss the matter with Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl). However, there were no indications that a positive outcome would come soon.

At the moment, the most pressing task for the prime minister seems to be the naming of a foreign minister because several vital foreign policy issues need to be tackled urgently, according to the sources.

On Saturday, there was intense speculation here over whether Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the former foreign minister who was ignored during the induction of the first batch of ministers, will be given his old ministry or a new one.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan told Dawn that the expansion of the cabinet depended on how early the coalition parties agreed on the leaders to be inducted into it, and the portfolios to be given to them.

She expressed the hope that both the JUI-F and MQM would agree to rejoin the cabinet.

A source in the Prime Minister's Secretariat said it was not necessary for the government to expand the cabinet in one go. “We can have several expansions, inducting rather small groups at a time,” said the official.

He was of the opinion that the possibility of the JUI-F rejoining the cabinet soon seemed remote. “But you may see some MQM faces at the next induction ceremony.”

Meanwhile, Ms Awan has issued a rather terse statement about some news reports that criticised the new federal cabinet.

The statement said: “A section of the media is bent upon criticising every decision this government makes, even though it may be for the betterment of the people.”

Claiming that many governments of the past had large cabinets, Ms Awan said the sitting PPP government had to leave out many honest and competent leaders to form a small but effective federal cabinet. “And yet this government is being criticised.”