Pak: Qureshi Reaffirms Party Loyalty

Rezaul H Laskar/Islamabad
Pak: Qureshi Reaffirms Party Loyalty
Amid stepped up tirade against Shah Mahmood Qureshi from leaders of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, the former Foreign Minister has said he had "no personal grievances" over his exclusion from Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's new cabinet.

Qureshi was criticised by several PPP leaders after he skipped the swearing-in ceremony of the new cabinet last week after finding out that he would not be reallocated the foreign affairs portfolio.

In a statement, he reaffirmed his loyalty to the PPP "with or without a ministerial post".

He said he had "no personal grievances" against the party and its leadership over his exclusion from the 22 ministers who were sworn in on Friday by President Asif Ali Zardari.

"I respect the party leadership's decision to change the cabinet and I hold, and have always held, the interests of the country, the party and its leadership in high esteem," he said.

Qureshi also sought to link his views on immunity for US official Raymond Davis – who was arrested in Lahore last month after he shot and killed two men – to the PPP's "commitment to the people of Pakistan and their rights".

In a reference to the American official, he said: "It is in this regard that I confirmed certain facts pertaining to the Raymond Davis case."

He did not give details on the grounds that the case is sub-judice but said that, if he was asked by courts, he would "reiterate the facts as were presented to me by the ministry of foreign affairs".

Reports have suggested that the PPP's top leadership decided not to give the foreign affairs portfolio to Qureshi as he had not backed the government's efforts to grant immunity to Davis following pressure from the US on the issue.

Media reports also quoted Qureshi as saying that he would not quit the PPP.

Qureshi was also quoted as saying that he had asked the PPP's leadership why he was not given the same portfolio following the shake-up of the cabinet while others like Interior Minister Rehman Malik had retained their ministries.

Observers said Qureshi had issued a statement to clarify his position to counter speculation about his political future and calls from some PPP leaders for disciplinary action to be taken against him for refusing to accept a change in his portfolio.

The main opposition PML-N was mulling a proposal to take Qureshi back into the party to balance "intra-party politics in southern Punjab", a source in the party was quoted as saying by the Daily Times newspaper.

The report said that since Qureshi had left the PML-N on his own initiative and "without being a hindrance for the party leadership" in the mid-1990s, the "top PML-N leadership had no reservation or hesitation in taking him back unconditionally".

In a related development, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar distanced the PPP from reports of disciplinary action being contemplated against Qureshi.

PPP spokesperson Fauzia Wahab was quoted as saying in the Dawn newspaper yesterday that Qureshi has "no future" in the party and "serious disciplinary action will be taken against him for violating party discipline and humiliating its leadership".

Wahab said Qureshi had "ditched the party leadership and it was not the first time he had done so".

Several other senior PPP leaders, including party secretary general Raja Parvez Ashraf and Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan on Sunday launched a scathing attack on Qureshi.
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