Former home minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza has returned from leave after two months, leading to speculation that a major reshuffle in the Sindh cabinet is in the works.
Mirza, who is also a senior vice-president of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), went abroad on sick leave in the beginning of April. He was accompanied by his wife, Dr Fehmida Mirza, the speaker of the National Assembly.
According to a PPP official, Mirza returned two days after the death of the president’s father, Hakim Ali Zardari. He took a helicopter straight to Nawabshah, where he met President Asif Ali Zardari, who left soon after to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mirza then took the same helicopter back to Karachi, where his former security squad was asked to join him.
Being a home minister, Mirza’s security squad comprises 30 policemen, Rangers and Frontier Corps personnel. All security men were directed to wait for the former minister’s return and were receiving their salaries at home, said an official. The 15 to 20 policemen deployed outside his house continued to carry out their duties during his absence, he added.
Sources told The Express Tribune that Mirza is still doing the same work he did when he was home minister. A large number of police officers continue to gather at his Defence house every day.
It is expected that Mirza will be given an important portfolio once the provincial budget is announced next week. “I cannot disclose which portfolio will be given to him but I can assure you that it will be an important responsibility,” said a provincial cabinet member, who recently met Mirza in Nawabshah. “There are chances that he [Mirza] may be asked to resume his previous job because most of the cabinet ministers and our party leaders don’t call him former home minister.”
On another note, dismissing rumours about the chief minister being replaced, senior party members insisted that Qaim Ali Shah would continue his job as the chief executive. They said, however, that a few portfolios would be reshuffled.
“After the recent coalition between the PPP and the PML-Q, three members of the latter - one minister and two advisers - are to be appointed. We were waiting for Mirza to return,” a party member said. Referring to Dr Fehmida Mirza, he said that she is living in Karachi at the moment but she might preside over the upcoming budget session.
Most PPP leaders are refusing to reveal Mirza’s whereabouts. One member said that Mirza was supposed to return after the budget, given the party’s differences with the MQM over him. Before leaving, Mirza had said that it was the MQM that did not want to see him as home minister. MQM officials have, however, denied the allegations and said that Mirza’s removal was the PPP’s internal decision.
Sources said that Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan, Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah met at CM House on Monday to discuss the budget and the developments following Mirza’s return. Even though the MQM and the PPP are coalition partners, Mirza’s open criticism has upset the partnership several times. MQM legislators have tendered resignations at least three times but they rejoined later. Senior PPP members said that the situation is different now that the PPP and the PML-Q are together.
The Express Tribune tried to contact Mirza but to no avail. PPP’s Taj Hyder suggested that it would be better to talk to Mirza to ascertain his whereabouts.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2011.
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