SM Qureshi dropped as Pakistan Foreign Minister

Shah Mahmood Qureshi is no longer the Foreign Minister of Pak as PM reconstituted his cabinet.

Updated: Feb 12, 2011, 09:51 AM IST

Islamabad: Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was
less than well disposed towards India, was today stripped of
his portfolio as foreign minister in the reconstitution of the
Pakistan federal cabinet following which he refused to take
oath.

A voluble leader, 54-year-old Qureshi, who headed the
foreign ministry in the PPP-led government since March 2008,
today did not join the new ministry formed by Prime Minister
Yousuf Raza Gilani who had dissolved the cabinet two days
back.

For now, the foreign ministry will be looked after by
Hina Rabbani Khar, who was minister of state for finance in
the dissolved cabinet, according to a statement issued by the
Prime Minister`s Office this evening.

The statement did not specify if Khar, 34, will have
independent charge of the portfolio. .

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

The decision to drop Qureshi comes shortly before
India and Pakistan are to resume their stalled dialogue
process. .

Offered Water and Power portfolio, the former foreign
minister was apparently reluctant to join the government, PPP
spokesperson Fauzia Wahab said.

He stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony for
Gilani`s new cabinet even as a chair was placed for him.

A lawyer by profession, Qureshi was considered a
hardliner because of his apparent proximity to the Army. At a
press conference with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna in
July last year, he equated Home Secretary G K Pillai`s
comments to those of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed. He also said that
Krishna often got calls from India during the bilateral talks
and left the room for consultations.

Incidentally, Qureshi was in India when the 26/11
attack in Mumbai took place in November 2008 and had to cut
short his visit.

State-run PTV reported earlier in the day that the
former Foreign Minister would be among 23 ministers who would
take oath, but he was not present when President Asif Ali
Zardari administered the oath of office to 21 federal
ministers and a minister of state at a ceremony in the
presidency this afternoon.

Gilani reconstituted his cabinet after demands for
reforms from the opposition and international donors.

Qureshi was perceived as being close to the army
and had been projected as a prime ministerial candidate after
the PPP emerged as the single largest part in the 2008 general
election.

There was also speculation last year that he could
replace Gilani as the premier in the event of shake-up in the
highest levels of the PPP.

PPP insiders said Gilani also did not have a
comfortable relationship with Qureshi. Both leaders hail from
the Multan region of Punjab province and had an uneasy working
relation, they said.

PTI