Gilani hopes PML-N ministers will return
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has expressed confidence that estranged coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will accept ministerial berths when he expands his cabinet in the coming days.
"I think they will come back," Gilani told reporters on board his special aircraft that flew him here from Dubai after a meeting with Asif Ali Zardari, co-chair of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that heads the ruling coalition.
Gilani, who had earlier attended the D8 summit in Kuala Lumpur, said he wanted to expand his cabinet as soon as possible after taking all the coalition partners on board and ensuring they got their due share according to their strength in parliament.
The PPP has 121 seats in the 342-member National Assembly or lower house of parliament against the 91 of the PML-N of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The other coalition partners, the Awami National Party and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam have 13 and six seats, respectively.
The PML-N had pulled its ministers out of the cabinet, but remained in the coalition, after the PPP reneged on its promise to restore the Supreme Court judges President Pervez Musharraf sacked after imposing an emergency last November.
After initially agreeing to this in writing, the PPP later backtracked, saying the restoration would be part of a package to restore the constitution as it existed in 1973.
In a backdoor move, the government last month raised the Supreme Court strength from 16 to 29 to ensure that the bench that was sworn in under the Provisional Constitutional Order that was promulgated along with the emergency would remain even as the sacked judges were restored.
The reinstatement, however, is yet to take place.
"I want to do it as soon as possible, but we have to hold consultations with the coalition partners on this count," The News Friday quoted Gilani as saying of the cabinet expansion.
He said various positions of ministers, ministers of state, parliamentary secretaries and standing committee heads would be reallocated among the coalition partners according to their proportion of MPs.
Asked about reports of rifts among the coalition partners and their complaints about not been taken into confidence on major issues, Gilani said the coalition was intact.
"All the coalition parties have different manifestos and are keeping their separate identities but we are all united on the minimum agenda of the restoration of the judiciary and strengthening of democracy as we believe in unity in diversity," the prime minister maintained.