President Asif Zardari's invitation to Mian Nawaz Sharif for a dinner must have come as a huge disappointment not only to some of his sidekicks but to all those trying to take advantage of the differences between the two mainstream parties to get more share in the power set-up than their weight justifies. The recent expansion in the federal cabinet is a case in point. It is not just over-sized but can become the country's largest-ever cabinet with the MQM and the JUI(F) likely to be on board. A quick glance at the list of the new inductees shows that it was the political consideration rather than an attempt to find the right persons for the right jobs that necessitated the expansion. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's argument that more ministers and ministers of state were required to respond to the queries of parliamentarians and improve the government's efficiency can be disputed in view of his cabinet members' performance. One wonders what miracles he expects from Israrullah Zehri whose only claim to fame is his public pronouncement that burying women alive is part of the Baloch culture. Flay the party leadership that champions the cause of women empowerment And what good you can expect from Manzoor Wattoo. There is no doubt that he carries a lot of experience to justify his elevation from an adviser to full minister. But you cannot ignore his tendency to challenge his leadership and become a potential threat to his own government. It is his blemished political career that will continue to haunt him for a long time to come. More than a decade down the line the treachery he committed by toppling late Punjab Chief Minister Ghulam Haider Wyne within days of the dismissal of the first Nawaz government he still suffers from a credibility gap. Mr Zardari must be aware of the situation that eventually compelled his late wife to show the door to Mr Wattoo after tolerating him for over two years. It also remains hard to fathom how much more vibrant the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Information will become with the induction of ministers of state in each one of them. It can be a throwback to the Musharraf era when Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and Makhdoom Khusro Bukhtiar, not being on the same page, did little to improve the functioning of the Foreign Office. And a similar situation was there at the Information Ministry where Muhammad Ali Durrani and his Minister of State were not comfortable with each other. An unwieldy cabinet will only overburden the national exchequer at a time when our rulers are running round the globe seeking doles from foreign governments to bail the country out of a severe cash crunch. Prime Minister Gilani needs to be updated by the Finance Ministry on how much expenses will be incurred on perks and privileges of a battalion of ministers and advisers. And what contribution these soldiers of fortune are like to make to the nation-building process who are more interested in finding furnished accommodations and luxury vehicles than taking briefings from officials on the working of their respective ministries. The government's dilemma lies in its inability to set its priorities right. It has turned out be spendthrift when it was about time that the ruling leadership should abandon its ostentatious lifestyle and go for a drastic cut in non-development expenditures. The President spending millions on chartering a plane to send 200 people on an umrah junket that coincided with his recent visit to Saudi Arabia to get financial assistance has left many wondering. There on the holy land he might have realized that his hosts could have been more generous had he come seeking their help along with Mian Nawaz Sharif. It must have more to do with the relations the Saudi leadership had developed during the Sharif family's long exile there than Mr Zardari's own credibility. Being Mian Nawaz's guarantor, they surely would be extremely upset at the way the PPP is pushing him into isolation. The President's dinner invitation to the PML-N leader becomes more significant in this backdrop. But better late than never, they say. The belated meeting between the estranged partners can help the two mainstream parties resolve matters pertaining to powersharing and focus their attention on issues of governance. The meeting will go down well with the Leaguers who would have been perturbed by Governor Taseer's caustic remarks. The PPP leadership might also realise that fence-mending with the PML-N at this stage will not only help it in effectively dealing with the crisis facing the country but will also go a long way in strengthening the democratic process in line with the Charter of Democracy. There is all the more reason to take the PML-N on board when the government's increasing reliance on splinter political groups has exposed it to blackmail by these elements. E-mail: sarmad@nation.com.pk