ISLAMABAD, April 16: Four more PPP leaders from Punjab were sworn in as ministers on Monday, clearly indicating that the party is preparing to fortify its ranks in the province for upcoming election battle.

Those who were made new ministers of state included Punjab PPP President Imtiaz Sardar Waraich, Sardar Saleem Haider, Dost Muhammad Mazari and Moazzam Ali Jatoi.

Not only these four ministers of state, but also the 11 ministers who were sworn in on Friday have yet to be given their portfolios.

The reason for the delay is stated to be some rift within the PPP and demands of some coalition parties.

The fresh induction of PPP leaders from Punjab once again contradicted claims of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that the size of the federal cabinet would be smaller due to the government’s austerity drive.

Although coalition partners did not come on record to say that they have reservations over induction of new ministers from the PPP, they criticised the government for violating its own austerity policy by expanding the cabinet and not taking them into confidence over the issue.An official announcement from the Presidency said: “President Asif Ali Zardari administered oath to ministers of state at a ceremony held here at the Aiwan-i-Sadr.”

Besides Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the ceremony was attended by federal ministers, members of parliament and senior government officials, the announcement said.

Asked why all new inductions had been made from Punjab, PPP leader Fauzia Wahab said the party wanted to strengthen its ranks in the province.

Meanwhile, a source in the PPP said there some rifts within the party had held up allocation of portfolios to the newly inducted ministers.

The source said that the PPP had decided to replace Federal Minister for Information Firdous Ashiq Awan with Qamar Zaman Kaira. However, the sitting minister has indicated she would put up a fight.

Those who were inducted in the federal cabinet on Friday but have not been given portfolios were Qamar Zaman Kaira, Rana Mohammad Farooq Saeed Khan, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Nazar Mohammad Gondal and Farzana Raja.

The ministers of state are Nawabzada Malik Ahmad Khan, Raheela Baloch, Abbas Khan Afridi, Tasneem Qureshi, Malik Azmat Khan and Syed Sumsam Ali Shah Bokhari.

According to Article 92 of the Constitution, the size of the cabinet cannot be exceeded 11 per cent of the strength of parliament.

“The total strength of the cabinet, including ministers of state, shall not exceed 11 per cent of the total membership of Majlis-i-Shoora (parliament),” the article amended through the 18th amendment said.

In reply to a question, PML-Q spokesman Kamil Ali Agha said his party had not demanded any ministry in the fresh cabinet expansion.

He expressed concern over the expansion despite the financial crunch.

“We will definitely ask rulers to adopt austerity,” he said.

The Awami National Party said it did not support increase in the size of the cabinet.

“We do not want any new ministry, but we think the size of the cabinet should have been curtailed due to poor economic conditions,” ANP spokesman Zahid Khan said.

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