ISLAMABAD: The government on Friday sought an explanation from the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party over its president Shahbaz Sharif’s decision to quit the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and raised questions about the possibility of a deal.

“I hope PML-N will give explanation to all the questions that arose from Mr Shahbaz Sharif’s decision,” deputy parliamentary leader of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at a press conference.

Acknowledging that some of the decisions were internal matters of PML-N, he said other moves related to other parties in parliament for which they (PML-N) ought to provide a plausible explanation. He recalled how the PML-N had made Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif’s appointment as chairman of the PAC a major issue and even held back the constitution of standing committees of the National Assembly.

“Rana Tanvir is not the opposition leader. Why doesn’t the Charter of Democracy apply here?” he asked.

In a surprise move, the PML-N announced on Thursday that Shahbaz Sharif had resigned as PAC chairman and nominated another party legislator Rana Tanvir as his successor. The party also announced Khawaja Asif as the new parliamentary leader in the National Assembly.

Qureshi questions ‘selective’ application of Charter of Democracy

Mr Qureshi pointed towards the possibility of a deal, but then went on to say he knew nothing about it and that his suggestion might be wrong. He also asked if Shahbaz Sharif would continue as opposition leader and remain on the National Security Committee recently constituted by the National Assembly speaker.

The PTI leader quashed rumours about former finance minister Asad Umar’s differences with the party leadership, which were fuelled by his absence from the party’s Foundation Day celebrations. He said Mr Umar was a PTI asset.

He also rejected as absurd rumours about introduction of presidential system and rollback of the 18th Amendment.

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan said that stepping down of Shahbaz Sharif as PAC chairman had endorsed narrative of Prime Minister Imran Khan that ‘a man tainted with corruption” should not hold the prestigious office.

“Opposition’s plea regarding appointment of Shahbaz Sharif as chairman PAC has been defeated and the narrative of Imran Khan has won,” she said at a joint press conference with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza.

Calling Shahbaz Sharif as “Lapata” (missing) opposition leader, Ms Awan said although he left the country on the pretext of medical treatment, he was seen roaming about in London’s streets showing no sign of bad health. “He seems to be quite healthy when he walks briskly on London streets, but when NAB questions him for his corruption, he goes to the courts to get bail,” she added.

Talking about the Supreme Court’s decision which earlier in the day had rejected Nawaz Sharif’s plea for extension in his bail, she said the former premier’s basic idea behind seeking bail was to join his brother in London.

“The apex court had given six weeks to Nawaz Shraif for medical treatment which is ending on May 7, but according to my knowledge, he did not visit any hospital during that time and remained busy in watching his family and business interests,” she said.

Ms Awan said the government wanted to run the parliament and hoped that all institutions would do their own jobs.

She, however, invited the opposition to support the government in its agenda for judicial, legal, economic and social sector reforms.

Ms Awan introduced Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza to the media and said he had been brought here from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for much-needed health reforms and to implement Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dream of better health care in the country.

Dr Mirza said the country’s already ‘ruined’ health system could be revived only by promoting primary health care. “We have to provide basic health facilities close to the community areas, [because] this will diminish extra burden of patients in the big hospitals,” he added.

He was of the view that if the network of basic health units and dispensaries was not revived in the country, hospitals in cities would remain crowded.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2019