Facing severe criticism over her handling of government affairs, Pakistan’s Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan on Sunday offered to quit but Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani “tore up” her resignation and asked her to continue in her position.
Addressing Mr. Gilani during a televised Cabinet meeting held in Karachi, 41-year-old Ms. Awan said: “While endorsing your leadership, I don’t think I can continue as a member of the Cabinet. With your permission, I would like to submit my resignation.”
Ms. Awan, who was elected to the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament from Sialkot, broke down as she said she did not wish to carry on working as Minister for Information when her party and Cabinet colleagues were not satisfied with her performance.
She told Mr. Gilani: “I believe that under your leadership and in the ownership of the President, we have to move forward.”
Ms. Awan, whose announcement left her colleagues surprised, said she will continue to provide her “full support and backing to the party and government.”
Mr. Gilani met Ms. Awan soon after the Cabinet meeting and assured her that he would address her reservations, officials said.
Ms. Awan told reporters that she had informed the Premier about her “reservations and concerns,” including interference by outsiders in her Ministry.
“The Prime Minister tore up my resignation and promised he would address all my reservations and concerns,” Ms. Awan said.
Ms. Awan said she did not want to continue as a Minister if certain persons created “obstacles in her path and problems and difficulties.”
“If people interfere in the ministry and non-Cabinet members try to exercise the Minister’s rights, then how can the minister perform,” she asked.
Ms. Awan said she had told the Premier that she should be allowed to work freely with a team of her choice.
She had reportedly faced criticism from leaders of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party for her perceived failure to defend President Asif Ali Zardari and the government in the face of a series of crises.
Ms. Awan was strongly criticised when she held a press conference in Islamabad with another PPP Minister, Babar Awan, after the Supreme Court ordered a probe into a secret memo sent to the US seeking its help to avert a possible coup in Pakistan following the killing of Osama bin Laden in a covert American raid in Abbottabad on May 2.
The two had lashed out at the judiciary and used harsh language, prompting Chief Justice Iftikhar M. Chaudhry to ask Mr. Gilani to make the government’s stance clear.
Ms. Awan was also criticised for her contradictory statements when Mr. Zardari had to rush to Dubai recently for medical treatment, which led to confusion and rumours in the country about the impending removal of the government.
She is the third PPP leader to hold the information portfolio since the current government came to power in early 2008. Her predecessors were Sherry Rehman, now Pakistan’s Ambassador-designate to the U.S., and Qamar Zaman Kaira.
Ms. Awan, who was inducted as Information Minister during a revamp of the Cabinet in February this year, had announced in November that Pakistan had decided to give the Most Favoured Nation status to India. Hours after her announcement, Pakistan government had issued several confusing statements which made no direct mention of the significant step.