Govt, opposition at odds after ex-IB chief sworn in as minister

Updated April 03, 2019

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President Dr Arif Alvi on Tuesday administered the oath to newly appointed Minister for Parliamentary Affairs retired Brigadier Ijaz Ahmed Shah. — File/Twitter
President Dr Arif Alvi on Tuesday administered the oath to newly appointed Minister for Parliamentary Affairs retired Brigadier Ijaz Ahmed Shah. — File/Twitter

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Tuesday administered the oath to newly appointed Minister for Parliamentary Affairs retired Brigadier Ijaz Ahmed Shah despite opposition from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) which believed that Mr Ijaz’s appointment would further spoil the environment in parliament.

The oath-taking ceremony, atten­ded by a limited number of guests, including Minister of State for Parlia­mentary Affairs Ali Moham­mad Khan, was held at President House.

The government had on Friday appointed former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Ijaz Shah as the federal minister for parliamentary affairs. The decision sparked a controversy — for the opposition in general and the PPP in particular — because before her assassination in December 2007, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had claimed that Mr Shah was among the people who had hatched a conspiracy to kill her.

Read:Ex-IB chief’s appointment as minister sparks controversy

Mr Shah had served as the IB director general from 2004 to 2008. He was accused of using the organisation for victimisation of political opponents. He was elected MNA on a ticket of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) from NA-118, Nankana Sahib-II.

The former IB chief was said to be a close confidant of former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf and was reportedly accused of orchestrating the formation of the PML-Q as the ‘king’s party’ before the general elections of 2002 by acquiring loyalties of PML-N leaders.

Mr Shah has taken the charge of his ministry 10 days before the start of the National Assembly’s new session on April 12.

When contacted, PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah said that though Prime Minister Imran Khan had the powers to appoint any member of parliament as his minister, it seemed that he had intentionally chosen a “controversial” man as the new parliamentary affairs minister to “provoke” the opposition in parliament.

Mr Shah said that it would be difficult for his party members to interact with a person who was allegedly involved in the murder case of Ms Bhutto.

“In fact, Ijaz Shah is being made the minister to make parliament redundant and to further degrade it,” the PPP leader said, adding that Mr Khan himself had no respect for parliament which was evident from his attendance in the National Assembly over the past nine months.

The PPP leader from Sukkur questioned the credentials of the former military man for the important office of parliamentary affairs and said that “Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan is at least a genuine political worker”.

The PPP leader said that Mr Khan had previously claimed that he would bring neat and clean people to his cabinet, but later the nation witnessed inductions of the members of the Gen Musharraf cabinet one by one. He alleged that the prime minister had actually been “brought to power as an alternative” to Gen Musharraf after the latter’s inability to return to the country.

Similarly, when contacted, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that her party considered Ijaz Shah’s appointment an “unnecessary move”.

“It is just a new addition to the existing cabinet of Gen Musharraf being presided over by selected PM Imran Khan,” she added.

On the other hand, federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry refuted the PPP allegation that Ijaz Shah was nominated by Ms Bhutto in one of her letters to then president Musharraf and some international journalists for his possible involvement in the eventuality of her assassination.

Talking to Dawn, the information minister said Mr Shah had been cleared in a number of inquiries conducted after the death of the former prime minister during the PPP regime when Asif Ali Zardari was the country’s president.

“He is a clean man as he has been cleared in all inquiries conducted against him,” he said.

Mr Chaudhry said that the opposition was simply finding “excuses” as it had no interest in running parliament smoothly.

Responding to the allegation that a majority of members of the present cabinet were Gen Musharraf’s aides, Mr Chaudhry said that a number of lawmakers in the former president’s assembly had joined the PPP, including former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

Asked why Ijaz Shah was appointed federal minister for parliamentary affairs despite being a former head of the IB, Mr Chaudhry said that he had been made the minister because the PTI wanted to give representation to central Punjab in the federal cabinet.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2019