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Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf shaking hands with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain President PML (Q) on arrival at his residence. - Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: The first job the cabinet of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is set to perform is an approval for creation of a post of deputy prime minister to fulfil a demand of the PML-Q.

According to a reliable source in the Pakistan People’s Party, the PML-Q leaders had been assured that the demand, which the party had first made last year at the time of joining the coalition, would be fulfilled by next week.

The source said there was no role of parliament in creation of the new post and only a simple amendment to the rules of business of the cabinet division was enough.

“No constitutional amendment or legislation is required to do so,” he said, adding that even the prime minister could direct the cabinet division to issue a notification for creating the office.

“Yes, a coalition party has sought the slot of deputy prime minister. The decision now lies within the purview of the federal cabinet,” said Farhatullah Babar, the spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari.

Senator Kamil Ali Agha of the PML-Q claimed the PPP leadership had agreed to the party’s proposal to give the office of deputy prime minister to Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in May last year, but regretted that former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani kept it delaying for unknown reasons.

He expressed hopes that the PPP leadership would now redeem its pledge and amend the rules of business.

Fawad Chaudhry, a legal expert and PPP member, said even the prime minister could direct the cabinet division to issue a notification for creating the new slot without seeking approval of the cabinet.

He explained that the rules of business simply outlined distribution of the cabinet’s functions under the prime minister.

He said that in India, too, the post of deputy prime minister was created simply through amending the rules.

Mr Agha, however, claimed that the issue was not discussed during the visit of the PPP team, headed by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, to the residence of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in Islamabad earlier during the day.

He said the prime minister had gone there only to thank Chaudhry Shujaat for his party’s support during voting the previous day.

Federal ministers Syed Khurshid Shah, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Syed Naveed Qamar, Manzoor Wattoo and Nazar Gondal accompanied the prime minister.

Mr Agha said the party had not set any deadline for the PPP to amend the rules. However, it was certain the party members would take oath as ministers only after fulfilment of the promise by the PPP leadership.

Talking to reporters after meeting the PPP delegation, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi declared that his party had decided to take action against those legislators who violated the party’s directives and abstained from voting at the time of the prime minister’s elections.

He told the reporters that the prime minister had assured them that the government’s top priority would be to grapple with the energy crisis.

Mr Elahi said 41 party MNAs, out of 50, had voted for Mr Ashraf. Out of the nine absentees, he said, two were abroad and one was sick.

He said disqualification references were being filed against party MNAs who had abstained from voting.

Those expected to face disciplinary action included Kashmala Tariq, Humayun Saifullah Khan, Awais Leghari and Amir Muqam.

It is significant, however, that all these legislators have already quit the party and publicly announced forming a separate group or joining other parties.

It is not clear as to why the PML-Q delayed action against Amir Muqam and Awais Leghari, who have joined the PML-N and the PTI respectively.