Not offered foreign ministry, Qureshi sulks, skips swearing in

Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Feb 11 (PTI) Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who wasknown for his less-than friendly attitude towards India, is nolonger the foreign minister of Pakistan as Prime MinisterYousuf Raza Gilani reconstituted his cabinet today.

A voluble leader, 54-year-old Qureshi, who headed theforeign ministry in the PPP government since March 2008, todayrefused to take oath as a cabinet minister after it becameknown that he was not going to get the foreign affairsportfolio.

Offered Water and Power portfolio, the former foreignminister was apparently reluctant to join the government, PPPspokesperson Fauzia Wahab told PTI.

A lawyer by profession, Qureshi was considered ahardliner because of his apparent proximity to the Army. At apress conference with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna inJuly last year, he equated Home Secretary G K Pillai''scomments to those of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed. He also said thatKrishna often got calls from India during the bilateral talksand left the room for consultations.

For now, the foreign ministry will be looked after byHina Rabbani Khar, who was minister of state for finance inthe dissolved cabinet, sources said.

The 34-year-old has been participating in discussionswith the World Bank and the IMF for financial reforms inPakistan and is familiar with western leaders.

A total of 21 federal ministers and a minister ofstate were administered the oath of office by President AsifAli Zardari at a ceremony in the presidency.

The new cabinet also retained several key ministers.

The state-run PTV had reported earlier in the day thatQureshi would be among 23 ministers who would take oath but hewas not among those who administered the oath of office by thePresident.

TV news channels quoted their sources as saying thatQureshi refused to take oath after the PPP''s leadership toldhim that he would not be given the foreign affairs portfolio.

One report said Qureshi had expressed his inability toaccept a ministerial post due to "domestic problems".

Gilani''s old cabinet had resigned earlier this week aspart of an exercise to refurbish the Pakistan People''sParty-led government''s flagging image.

The new cabinet is smaller but retained many oldmembers.

Former ministers re-inducted into the cabinet includeRehman Malik (former interior minister), Abdul Hafeez Sheikh(former finance minister), Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar (formerdefence minister), Amin Fahim (former commerce minister) andNaveed Qamar (former petroleum minister).

The new ministers inducted in the cabinet are MianRaza Rabbani, Engineer Shaukatullah, Changeez Jamali, SardarMuhammad Gargej and Haji Khuda Bakhsh Rajar. .

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