LAHORE: Longstanding differences between Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi and stalwart Jahangir Khan Tareen surfaced again on Monday when the former took strong exception to Mr Tareen’s presence at official meetings, calling it a ‘contempt of court’.
Accompanied by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar during a press conference at Governor House, the PTI vice chairman and foreign minister reminded Mr Tareen about the Supreme Court’s decision on his appeal and said his chairing of official meetings fell within the definition of contempt of court.
The remarks of the PTI vice chairman attracted strong reaction from Mr Tareen as well as federal ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Faisal Vawda who took to social media to declare that party leaders were only answerable to PTI chairman Imran Khan.
The foreign minister earlier told the press conference that Mr Tareen’s act of attending official meetings would allow party opponents including PML-N leader Marriyum Aurangzeb to exploit the situation to their advantage.
He said if disqualification under Article 62-F of the Constitution banned PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif from holding any public or party office, how the yardstick could be different for the PTI leader. He advised Mr Tareen to voluntarily withdraw himself and continue serving the party by remaining in the background by upholding politics of principles.
Shortly afterwards, Mr Tareen took a swipe at Mr Qureshi by saying, “There is only one man in my life whom I consider my leader and to whom I am answerable. His name is Imran Khan.”
Federal ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Faisal Vawda took to social media to lend their support to Mr Tareen, while a provincial minister of Punjab, too, issued a statement in favour of Mr Tareen.
Fawad, Vawda take to social media to support Tareen after PTI vice chairman advises him to respect SC decision and stay in background
In his tweet, Mr Tareen said he had stood by his (Imran Khan) side through thick and thin and would continue to do so till his last breath. Without naming the PTI vice chairman, he said: “What others may say for their own strange reasons does not concern me”.
Federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry said the PTI managed to form the government last year only because of the vital role that Jahangir Tareen had played. “Mr Tareen attends cabinet meetings on the sweet will of prime minister,” he said, adding that the party leadership should respect the PM’s actions.
Terming the SC order against Mr Tareen ‘misfortune’, Mr Chaudhry said: “He is out of elections, but not from the hearts of PTI workers.”
Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda also tweeted: “Mr Tareen is sitting in official meetings on the insistence of cabinet members, including myself. He has selflessly done a lot for the party. We respect him as a senior colleague and learn from his expertise.
“Nobody in the party can dictate us. The prime minister is our leader and we take instructions from him only”.
Punjab Agriculture Minister Nauman Langrial termed Mr Qureshi’s statement “inappropriate” and said Mr Tareen with a vast experience in agriculture had the ability to achieve impossible targets. “Mr Tareen’s guidance in the agriculture sector is an honour for us,” he added.
Party sources said the criticism by Mr Qureshi was the scathing indictment not only on Mr Tareen but the party leadership as well. They said other PTI leaders and workers wondered how the cracks within the ruling party would be bridged after such open criticism.
Sources said both leaders hailing from south Punjab had been nurturing grudges for a long time.
They said at a time when the PTI government was struggling on the economic front, the face-off between senior leaders could compound its problems.
Rifts between the ruling party leaders, including cabinet members, over different issues have been reported in the past also, as some of them criticised each other on the social media.
Referring to the PTI government’s plans to change the nomenclature of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), Mr Qureshi said it would be a folly to make non-issue an issue. “Changing the BISP title will be a wrong political decision,” he said.
Asserting that name does not matter, Mr Qureshi urged party leaders and workers to project the positive aspects of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recently launched programme “Ehsaas”.
Answering a question that Mr Khan’s team had failed to take off on the economic front, Mr Qureshi said people knew very well that the crisis was not created by the PTI government, but the previous governments. He said Pakistan was absolutely on the verge of bankruptcy and the PTI government ensured that the economy should not crumble. “Finance minister Asad Umer will soon be able to stabilise country’s economy,” he added.
Regarding opposition’s claim about the government plan to scrap the 18th Amendment, the foreign minister said this was never an intention nor it would be.
He suggested PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to get rid of the “faces” that had propelled his party’s downfall and continue clipping its flight in Punjab.
Mr Qureshi said former premier Yousaf Raza Gillani had lavishly spent public funds and distributed jobs yet he lost elections from Multan for four consecutive times.
Calling the former prime minister as a ‘personification of corruption’, he said people had decided to vote against all corrupt candidates, even if they belonged to the PTI.
Advising Mr Gillani to stay away from active politics, the PTI vice chairman asked him how he would face public when ‘corrupt’ elements would be sitting beside him on the stage on the occasion of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s death anniversary in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on April 4.
Answering another question, he said: “I will name other corrupt faces in the PPP when Gillani is removed from the party”.
Mr Qureshi was of the opinion that Bilawal’s train march to Islamabad would not attract good response from PPP workers in Punjab.
Chiding the PPP leadership for playing Sindh card at the time of their founding leader’s anniversary, Mr Qureshi explained PM Khan had only called for reviewing the formula of distributing resources among the federal and provincial governments under 7th National Finance Award. However, he added, the federal government and provincial chief ministers would be part of the NFC award meeting.
On the suspension of dialogue on Kartarpur corridor, the foreign minister said Pakistan had responded to the wishes of the Sikh community from across the world and India had reluctantly accepted the joint venture. He said Pakistan went to India for a meeting on Kartarpur despite the escalation on borders but India was hesitating for a second meeting scheduled for April 2. “I ask India to bring its apprehensions on the table for review by Pakistan but avoid cancelling meetings,” he said.
About apprehensions that a deal was being struck for the Sharifs, Mr Qureshi said he didn’t see “deal or dheel” in their case.
About Pakistan being greylisted by Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the foreign minister said the government had calculated that the country would face $10 billion loss annually if it remained in the grey list.
He said the foreign office was also calculating the loss if it was pushed in the black-list as India was lobbying for this.
Mr Qureshi explained party’s politics in detail that worked in the PP-218 by-election won by PTI candidate Malik Wasif. He said the PML-N and PPP had joined hands against the PTI and calling it a test case for the PTI government’s performance during the last seven months.
Governor Sarwar also spoke.
Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2019