Musharraf replaces information minister


Islamabad : Pakistan's high profile federal Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani has been replaced amid the three-month stand-off between the government and the judiciary over the suspension of the country's chief justice.

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Muhammad Ali Durrani has been replaced by his deputy, Senator Tariq Azeem, a minister of state who has been given full charge, media reports said Tuesday.

There was also speculation that Law Minister Wasi Zafar would be moved – Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry's suspension is widely perceived as having been carried out on his recommendation.

The information portfolio had seen a change last year as well when Sheikh Rashid, another high profile minister considered close to President Pervez Musharraf, was shifted to the railway ministry.

Durrani may be appointed additional secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League, and possibly also given tourism ministry.

Musharraf has in recent weeks given vent to his anger at Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's government "mismanaging" the crisis caused by the top judge's suspension, on political, legal and media fronts.

This had triggered speculation about the changes and Durrani's is the first since the crisis began in March.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was to be put in charge of the election cell of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid, but the decision had been withdrawn because of opposition from the Chaudhrys, Daily Times said in reference to party chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Fazle Elahi.

Earlier this week, quoting unnamed sources, the newspaper had said: "Several changes in government are expected in the coming days."

According to the buzz surrounding changes in the party's top hierarchy, secretary general Mushahid Hussain Sayed was to be shifted as information minister but he refused because of the little time left before general elections, the newspaper said.