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Pakistan unveils new slimline cabinet

By Reuters

Pakistan announced a new, slimline cabinet on Friday, cutting its number from 54 to 22 but retaining many members of the previous cabinet with the notable exception of the foreign minister.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani assembled the smaller cabinet to reduce government expenditure and meet opposition demands, part of a 10-point economic agenda.

The former cabinet, one of the largest in the world, was seen a major hurdle in cutting state spending and carrying out economic reforms at a time when Pakistan is struggling to pay its bills and is dependent on an International Monetary Fund loan to run its economy.

Finance Minister Hafiz Shaikh is expected to retain his post, providing continuity in Pakistan's dealings with international donor organisations.

Gilani named five new ministers to his team. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was not included in the lineup, announced a day after India and Pakistan said they were resuming peace talks, broken off after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

But his removal was not believed to be connected to the peace talks and no change in foreign policy was expected. Analysts say the move is aimed at garnering support for the economic reforms.

Others absent included Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and Water and Power Minister Pervaiz Ashraf.
The country's feeble economy was battered by devastating floods last year that inflicted nearly $10 billion in damage.