Nirupama Subramanian

No clarity on who will get Foreign Ministry

Swearing-in likely on Saturday

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday said it welcomed India’s “reiteration” that it wanted the “best ever” relations between the countries.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks were “noted.”

“We are happy that India has reiterated its position on bilateral relations,” the spokesman said at a weekly Foreign Office media briefing.

Mr. Sadiq said Islamabad and New Delhi were “already in the process of fixing dates for the next meetings” between the two countries.

However, there is no clarity yet on who might get the Foreign portfolio in Yousuf Raza Gillani’s Cabinet. Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) spokesman Ahsan Iqbal told The Hindu recently that his party was not staking claim to the Finance, Foreign, Interior, Information ministries, but there are reports that Cabinet formation is stuck because it now wants some of these crucial portfolios, while the Pakistan People’s Party believes that it should keep them.

The Cabinet is expected to be finalised and announced on Friday and sworn in on Saturday, after Mr. Gillani fulfils a constitutional requirement of getting a vote of confidence from the National Assembly.

The presence of Shah Mahmood Qureishi at PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s meeting on Tuesday with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher could be a sign that the party has lined him up for the Foreign Ministry.

The Boston-based academic and writer, Hussain Haqqani, who was close to Benazir Bhutto and is adviser to Mr. Zardari, was also present at the meeting, setting off speculation that he may be posted as Ambassador to Washington.

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