By Khaleeq Kiani
Friday, 27 Nov, 2009
ISLAMABAD, Nov 26: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is considering a proposal to reduce the strength of cabinet by half and post some ministers as heads of public sector corporations and other government agencies.
A cabinet member told Dawn that Mr Gilani had discussed with his senior cabinet colleagues the proposal from the finance ministry to reduce the number of ministers and advisers from about 66 to 30 or 35.
He said such a restructuring could be undertaken after the political crisis sparked by the National Reconciliation Ordinance was defused.
The proposal made several ministers and advisers anxious and the prime minister is reportedly being pressurised to drop the idea.
Floated as an economic measure to trim the size of the government and reduce public expenditure as desired by international lenders, the move will provide an opportunity to the prime minister to reorganise his government for better implementation of policies.
Under the proposal, some ministries and divisions would be merged into others to avoid duplication of work and many of the axed ministers would be accommodated in public sector organisations as chairmen of boards or non-operational heads to avoid bickering in the PPP and coalition partners.
The minister said that such ministers and advisers would get offices and staff at these organisations. It is, however, still being discussed how such people would be stopped from interfering in operational affairs of companies so that the major objective of reducing non-development expenditure is not compromised.
He said the prime minister could ask some of the ministers to surrender additional portfolios. The ministries like interior, commerce, defence, energy, information and law could see some changes, he added.
Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar is likely to be moved to the commerce or interior ministry where he can use expertise in a more effective manner, Raza Rabbani could become minister for law and parliamentary affairs and Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira may also get a new portfolio.
Sources said that some of the ministers had complained to the prime minister about Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s interference in affairs of their ministries.
A couple of ministers have accused Mr Malik of providing misleading information to the president and the prime minister on several issues, causing embarrassment to the government.
“It will be interesting to see on what political lines the prime minister draws up his new cabinet because it would mean reshuffle for some and exit for others. Also, it would show if the government continues to function under the influence of the president or emerges as a refined and functioning authority,” said a senior cabinet member.
“The prime minister will have to find a fine balance among interests of the party, coalition partners, presidency and those who want a prudent government running affairs of the state,” he said.
The sources said the PPP government believed that while the media as a whole was not treating it fairly, some journalists and media houses had crossed the red line.
Some senior ministers believe that the media is not being handled properly, but most of them agree that certain media houses have their own vested interests.