Is a Cabinet Reshuffle Imminent ?

By Zulfiqar Ghumman

In a bid to purge the federal cabinet of National Reconciliation Ordinance-hit ministers, President Asif Ali Zardari – who is also the co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)) – and the central executive committee (CEC) of the ruling party have authorised Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to reshuffle the federal cabinet, Daily Times has learnt.

The PPP co-chairman and the CEC authorised the prime minister – who is also vice chairman of the PPP – at the party’s top body meeting on Monday. Those who opposed a reshuffle of the cabinet because of the NRO said it was not required constitutionally to quit a government office on the basis of unproven cases. “The party should make decisions that are independent of any external pressure,” according to sources.

Avail immunity: The sources said CEC members were of the unanimous view that Zardari should avail the constitutional immunity available to the head of state, as he could not be summoned to any court or tried until he held the office of president. The meeting did not restore the membership of Aitzaz Ahsan, and left the final decision to the co-chairman of the party.

Aitzaz’s membership of the CEC was suspended for taking a stance on the restoration of the judiciary that did not agree with the PPP’s position. “A group of CEC members advocated that NRO-hit ministers should leave office and face cases in individual capacity, instead of using the umbrella of the party or the government. This will give the party high moral ground … otherwise the president himself will remain under pressure,” said the sources. They said the cabinet reshuffle was likely after Eid, with some of the minister likely to be asked to resign. “Some of the CEC members were also of the view that the NRO-hit ministers should quit themselves,” said the sources.

The sources said the CEC also asked the prime minister to talk to disgruntled FATA parliamentarians and persuade them to return to the cabinet, otherwise offices vacated by them would be filled.

The sources said the CEC members gave divergent views on the July 31 decision of the Supreme Court on the NRO. “Some said it was a past-and-closed transaction, while others said all the cases closed under the NRO after February 5 stood revived after the detailed judgment of the SC,” said the sources. Asked about the CEC’s point of view on the repeal of the 17th Amendment, Article 58(2b) and the empowerment of parliament – the sources said after listening to all members, President Zardari said he was committed to the restoration of true democracy, but it was up to the parliamentary committee on constitutional reforms to make decisions in the matter. Referring to a campaign in the media against the party and the co-chairman, the CEC expressed confidence in Zardari, and vowed to support him in all circumstances. “But at the same time, the members said there should be increased interaction between them and the leadership to deliberate on all important issues,” said the sources. The CEC was also critical of certain anchorpersons in the electronic media and certain individuals in the print media for “a malicious campaign against the party leadership