In a setback to Pakistan's ruling PPP, senior party leader and Information Minister Sherry Rehman on Friday resigned from the Cabinet after differences emerged with top leadership over the Government's handling of media.
Rehman, a former journalist and a close aide of slain PPP chairperson and former premier Benazir Bhutto, put in her papers early this morning after differences emerged on the issue of handling the media in the context of the ongoing political crisis at a high-level meeting, media reports said.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has not yet accepted her resignation, sources were quoted as saying by TV news channels. There was no official word on the development.
Rehman's resignation comes at a time when the PPP is already hit by a political crisis due to a confrontation with Opposition PML-N on various issues.
During the high-level meeting co-chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari and Gilani late last night, differences emerged on how the government should handle the media's coverage of the long march launched by the lawyers' movement and PML-N to pressure the PPP to reinstate judges sacked during the 2007 emergency.
Zardari was unhappy over the media's coverage of the point of view of lawyers' movement and opposition parties. Some of the PPP leaders and federal ministers present in the meeting proposed imposing restrictions on media but this was opposed by Rehman, media reports said.
Rehman had also opposed recent suggestions by security agencies that some sort of code of conduct should be framed for the media while covering militancy-hit regions like the northwestern Swat valley and the tribal areas.
The reports of Rehman's resignation broke hours after Geo News, Pakistan's leading Urdu news broadcaster, claimed it had been blacked out from cable networks across the country on the orders of Zardari.
Officials dismissed the channel's claim, saying no such orders were issued by the presidency.
An internet group backing the long march too had sent out an email listing Rehman's personal mobile phone numbers and urged people to call or SMS her to ask her to resign for curbs being imposed on the media.
In addition to the ongoing political crisis, the PPP has been hit growing dissent within the party over Zardari’s actions.
Senior PPP leader Raza Rabbani resigned this week as the Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination after Zardari got his confidant and former lawyer Farooq Naek elected as Chairman of the Senate or upper house of parliament. Naek was earlier Law Minister.