Pakistan Cabinet quit in overhaul plan



-- Pakistan's Cabinet ministers submitted their resignations to the prime minister on Wednesday as part of the government's plan to dissolve and reappoint a smaller Cabinet, the prime minister's press secretary told CNN.

"All the ministers have tendered their resignation," said Shabir Anwar. "The resignations will now be sent to the president for acceptance."

Pakistan's ruling party announced plans to shrink the Cabinet last week. Party officials insisted Friday the decision was not a move to preempt an uprising similar to those which have taken place in Egypt and Tunisia.

The plan to shrink the Cabinet is an effort to cut spending and improve the government's performance, government spokesman Qamar Zaman Qaira told CNN.

"This has nothing to do with the situation in Egypt and the Middle East," Qaira said. "This is something the people and political parties demanded."

A statement by the office of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari last week said Zardari's goal is to have "a mean, lean and aboveboard Cabinet."

The resigning ministers will continue their duties until a new Cabinet has been appointed, government officials said.

Pakistan's ruling party will begin the selection process once the president officially accepts Wednesday's resignations, Anwar said. "The party leadership will choose the new ministers after consulting with other political parties," he said.

Zardari will have significant influence in choosing the new ministers since he heads the ruling Pakistan People's Party.

Analysts say some of the the more than 50 ministers who resigned will be reappointed to their old posts.

"The interior minister is not going anywhere," an official from Interior Minister Rehman Malik's office told CNN. The official asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Wednesday's resignations come amid mounting pressure on the Pakistani government from several fronts to downsize one of the largest Cabinets in the world and improve performance.

More than 50 Cabinet members, critics say, is far too many for a country that's facing a crippling economic crisis. Last month, Pakistan's leading opposition party gave an ultimatum to the government: reduce the size of its Cabinet or face public protests.

Last year Pakistani lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment that limits the number of federal ministers following the next parliamentarian elections in 2013.

The government's plan to downsize its Cabinet is an effort to change the perception that it's losing its hold on power, said political analyst Aysia Riaz. "I think it's all that pressure that's making the government reinvent itself at this stage, to do whatever it can to hold onto power."