ISLAMABAD, Feb 9 – Pakistan\’s ministers on Wednesday submitted their resignations to the prime minister, who intends to appoint a smaller cabinet in order to reduce government spending at a time of economic crisis.
"Today\’s meeting is going to be the last meeting of the present cabinet," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told more than 50 ministers, praising their record on the economy, constitutional reform and response to major floods.
A senior government official told AFP that the ministers had tendered their resignations to Gilani during the meeting.
"Now the prime minister will forward these resignations to the president for acceptance," the official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.
"The cabinet usually stands dissolved after the president accepts the resignations forwarded to him by the prime minister," he added.
The main ruling Pakistan People\’s Party (PPP) last week authorised Gilani to dissolve the cabinet after powerful opposition parties demanded a smaller line-up as part of retrenchment efforts to tackle Pakistan\’s economic woes.
A reduction in the size of the cabinet is a legal requirement of the 18th amendment to the constitution, which stipulates it should be no larger than 11 percent of parliament.
"The total size of the parliament is 442 members and accordingly the size of the cabinet should be 49," said PPP spokeswoman Fauzia Wahab.
"We need people in the cabinet who are efficient and competent and whose integrity is beyond any doubt," she told AFP.
The government is under huge pressure from the opposition to implement a raft of reforms, in order to head off any possible threat of a call for early elections from opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif in January gave the government 45 days to implement 11 key reforms, including a reduction in non-development spending, or risk having the PPP kicked out of government in Punjab province.
One of the demands, to reverse a controversial and deeply unpopular fuel price hike, was met by Gilani within days.
Analysts said the resignations were little more than window dressing, which themselves would not fix the economy.
"The decision conveys a good political message to opposition parties and donor agencies. But they need substantive decisions to tackle the economic problems," said political science professor Rasool Bakhsh Raees.