ISLAMABAD / NAWABSHAH: While general elections are just a few months away, two minority members of the National Assembly (MNAs) have quit the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and joined the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is also patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, held a press conference in Islamabad on Saturday to announce that he had left the PML-N and joined the PTI. PTI chief Imran Khan was present on the occasion.
Dr Vankwani claimed he had criticised the policies of the PML-N and its leadership many times during the last five years. He said though Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had announced in 1947 that rights of minorities would be protected in Pakistan but unfortunately that had not happened.
“Under the incumbent government, I was hopeful that steps will be taken to protect rights of minorities. After getting disappointed, I approached the Supreme Court in 2014 to get the issues faced by minorities addressed. Though the apex court directed the government to address issues of minorities but only the Hindu Marriage Act was passed and even that law could not be implemented,” he said.
Dr Vankwani said during the hearings of the Panama Papers case most of the PML-N leaders had used inappropriate language about the court but he had refrained from doing so because it was the issue of the Sharif family and the party had nothing to do with it.
“Now efforts are being made to make National Accountability Bureau non-functional after installation of a caretaker government, which is condemnable,” the MNA said. “I raised my voice (on the issue) during meetings of the PML-N parliamentary party though many participants did not like it,” he claimed.
Replying to questions, he said Quaid-i-Azam and Jawaharlal Nehru had agreed that a Hindu person would be head of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) in Pakistan and a Muslim would head the similar board in India.
“India has been implementing the agreement but Pakistan is not doing so,” he said and suggested that retired Justice Rana Bhagwandas be appointed head of the ETPB.
When he initially floated that proposal, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had agreed to it but a few days later Siddiqul Farooq was appointed chairman of the ETPB, the MNA said.
Welcoming Dr Vankwani in the PTI, Imran Khan and said the party would ensure that the rights of the minorities were protected.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Statistics Kamran Michael, reacting to the decision made by the MNA, said: “Dr Vankwani should not talk about rights of the Hindu people because his politics revolves around his interests.”
Mr Michael said Imran Khan only spoke about rights of minorities. “In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa funds allocated for minorities have been deducted and the people affected by the Peshawar church blast have been waiting to get aid,” he said.
It became obvious on April 5 that Dr Vankwani would quit the PML-N soon as during a meeting of a standing committee of the National Assembly, he and National Health Services Minister Saira Afzal Tarar engaged in arguments after the MNA accused the government of violating merit during recent appointments. Ms Tarar responded that “someone else’s words” were coming from his mouth.
Dr Vankwani belongs to Islamkot of Tharparkar district in Sindh and is the son of Dr Seental Das, a prominent doctor of the town.
After completing his medical education from Hyderabad, Dr Vankwani launched his political career when he filed nomination papers to contest for the Sindh Assembly seat of Mithi as an independent candidate in 2002. However, he withdrew his candidature in favour of the nephew of Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim and, as per an agreement, was made MPA on a seat reserved for minorities on a PML-Q ticket. Later he became chief patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council and worked for the rights of Hindu people. In 2013, he was elected MNA on the reserved seat for minorities on a PML-N ticket.
In Nawabshah, another minority MNA of the PML-N — Bhawan Das — announced his decision to join the PPP at a ceremony where the party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari inaugurated the new building of the local press club.
Earlier Bhawan Das called on the PPP leader at Zardari House.
Bhawan Das, a businessman and owner of several cotton factories, hails from Sinjhoro taluka of Sanghar district in Sindh. He was elected MNA on a seat reserved for minorities on a PML-N ticket in 2008 and 2013.
Sources said that he had no political background before he was picked by the PML-N for National Assembly membership on a reserved seat in 2008. According to the assembly’s website, he was elected on reserved seat from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2008.
Hanif Samoon from Badin contributed to this report.
Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2018