NAEEMUL Haq says he believes Sheikh Rashid only wants an SC interpretation over whether a person facing a NAB probe can head the PAC.—Online
NAEEMUL Haq says he believes Sheikh Rashid only wants an SC interpretation over whether a person facing a NAB probe can head the PAC.—Online

RAWALPINDI: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Affairs Naeemul Haq on Saturday distanced the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) from the announcement by Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed that he would challenge in court the appointment of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman.

Speaking at a news conference here on Saturday, Mr Haq defended the government’s decision to nominate Mr Sharif as the PAC head, saying the opposition leader had assured the government through National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser that he would not preside over the meetings of the committee when the audits of the projects undertaken during the term of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government would come up before it.

Denying any differences within the ruling coalition over the issue, Mr Haq said that Prime Minister Imran Khan agreed to Mr Sharif’s nomination as the PAC head as the opposition had stalled the legislative process in parliament by refusing to become part of its committees if the opposition leader was not offered the PAC’s chairmanship.

PM’s aide denies any differences within ruling coalition over PAC chief selection issue

He said the government wanted to carry out some important legislation for the welfare of the public for which the committees were required. The government had decided to give the chairmanship of 18, out of 38 committees, to the opposition.

In response to a question, Mr Haq said it would be wrong to say that the railways minister had not accepted the prime minister’s decision, adding: “As far as I know, he [Mr Ahmed] only wants an interpretation from the SC over whether a person facing a NAB [National Accountability Bureau] inquiry can head the PAC. It does not mean that he is not accepting Imran Khan’s decision.”

The senior leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and close aide to Prime Minister Khan acknowledged that the nation was presently facing a difficult time due to the economic conditions, but claimed that the country was moving towards prosperity. He said that Mr Khan would next week announce “revolutionary measures” for eradication of poverty.

He said that friendly countries like China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had helped Pak­istan in improving its economy.

The prime minister, he said, did not believe in “political victimisation” and all the cases presently being faced by the PML-N and PPP leaders had been filed by the previous governments. Even the government was perturbed over some of the actions taken by NAB against the corporate sector, but it did not want to influence or interfere in the bureau’s affairs.

He made it clear that those people who had plundered the nation’s wealth would be brought to justice.

In response to another question, Mr Haq said the prime minister had already taken notice of the shortage of gas and electricity in the country. He said the government was making all-out efforts to eliminate the menace of loadshedding from the country before the next summer.

Talking about the retrenchments in the media industry, Mr Haq said the prime minister was constantly in touch with the owners of media houses and the government was making every effort to stop sackings from newspapers and TV channels.

“It is intolerable to see people losing jobs during our government. We will stop it and there will be a [good] development within this month,” he said. But at the same time, he said the government had no resources to release advertisements to the news organisations like the previous governments used to do.

He said there were outstanding dues of Rs9 billion which the previous governments had not paid to the news organisations. He alleged that it had been revealed during the audits that some of the advertisements which had been released had not been published.

He also expressed the hope that soon there would be peace in Afghanistan due to the efforts of the prime minister. He said that US President Donald Trump had also expressed the desire to meet Mr Khan.

He said the US was presently holding direct talks with Taliban and hopefully there would be peace in Afghanistan in the next few months.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2019