Musharraf’s damage control: reshuffle ministry, party posts


Islamabad : Feeling "let down" by the ruling PML-Q's silence over the agitation against the chief justice's suspension and upset by the government's inability to tackle the crisis, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf may go in for a major cabinet reshuffle.

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The cabinet reshuffle, part of a damage control exercise, may involve Law Minister Wasi Zafar and Information Minister Mohammed Ali Durrani, while Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid Secretary General Mushahid Hussain Sayed may be replaced, Daily Times said Friday.

Sections of the media have also been speculating over the possibility of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz being replaced. Aziz, on the advice of Zafar, is supposed to have recommended action against the Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.

According to political observers, if Musharraf has not replaced Aziz it is because he is under pressure at home and from the US to hold elections later this year.

Chaudhry's suspension on March 9 triggered a nationwide agitation and Musharraf last week angrily told PML-Q leaders that he felt "let down" by the "silence" of the party members.

The government, he said, had also failed to tackle the crisis. He was critical of the role of the media too.

Ministers Zafar and Durrani may have to go because of the "mismanagement" of the media and the judicial crisis, the newspaper said in its front-page report.

Sayed, a journalist-turned-politician who was also information minister in Nawaz Sharif's cabinet, has been Musharraf's confidant and political troubleshooter for long. Musharraf had influenced his appointment in the key job, and gave him a second term last year.

But the newspaper, quoting sources in PML-Q, said he would be replaced by a "politically active" secretary general.

"It has been realised that only a person who is more political than an academic and has flexibility to work with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (the present party chief) can run the party affairs keeping in view the forthcoming election,"

The post could go to Hamid Naseer Chatha, a prominent Punjab leader.

Sources in the party told Daily Times that the decision to replace Sayed had been taken at the highest level "to infuse a new spirit in the party and prepare it for the general elections".

The change is expected after National Assembly's current budget session.

A signal to Sayed's impending departure was available when he urged Musharraf on Wednesday to convene an all-party meeting to work out an election timetable.

His comments about Musharraf's uniform at a PML policy planning group meeting held earlier were not "appreciated", as they encouraged others in the party to speak openly about the uniform issue, president's re-election and judicial crisis, the newspaper said.