Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in her first major cabinet reshuffle replaced her information minister yesterday, and made changes to the portfolios of three other ministers in her five-month-old cabinet.

She has however not changed the rank and status of any of the ministers, according to an official announcement on Monday night.

Under the new set-up, Tariqul Islam has replaced Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan as information minister. Khan has been given the charge of the Ministry of Science and Technology, which was earlier held by State Minister Lutfor Rahman Khan Azad.

Tariqul's food portfolio has gone to Abdullah Al Noman, who was labour and employment minister. Azad will now head the labour and employment ministry.

The reshuffle came in the wake of the growing demand in the rank and file of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for changes in the 60-member-strong cabinet.

Since the Council of Ministers was formed on October 10, changes were predicted on several occasions, mostly involving two politically sensitive ministries – information and home affairs.

More changes in the cabinet involving the ministries of home, civil aviation, energy and mineral resources, and environment and forest are likely soon, an influential minister said.

Earlier, the prime minister inducted business tycoon M. Morshed Khan into her cabinet as foreign minister after A.Q.M. Badrudduja Chowdhury was elected president.

Minister Harun-ar-Rashid Khan Monno is yet to get a portfolio.

On Sunday night, the prime minister had a long meeting with some senior cabinet members at her Dhaka Cantonment residence. Issues such as the growing rift among ministers and BNP policymakers came up for discussion at the meeting.

The overall situation in the country was also discussed, sources said.

Khaleda expressed concern over the tendency among cabinet members to belittle each other. She sought suggestions to solve the problems, sources added.

BNP policymakers suggested the cabinet be downsized and some ministers, who have already proved "inefficient", be removed. They are learnt to have brought to the prime minister's notice corruption and nepotism by some ministers.

They observed that the selection of ministers was wrong and that there should be immediate changes, otherwise the two-thirds majority in parliament will be meaningless.

They said the performance of at least 20 ministers and state ministers is very poor and alleged that a few cabinet members are "busy making money" rather than running ministerial affairs.