KARACHI: Internal rifts within the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf surfaced again on Saturday when a recently sidelined federal minister claimed that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government was taking decisions without consulting its elected members.
Pointing to an ongoing ‘cold war’ between elected and non-elected members in the government, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry told a private TV channel: “I still believe that our [government’s] political decision-making is weak. Important decisions are taken and we are not even aware. There is a need to improve how decisions are made.”
Almost every TV channel carried in its headlines Mr Chaudhry’s statement regarding a weak decision-making and cold war among elected and non-elected members, prompting chief government spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan to assert that all decisions were made at the behest of the party leadership under PM Khan.
Also, Mr Chaudhry himself took to Twitter and said that “some headlines” of his interview were misleading.
Firdous says terming teamwork interference is reflective of small-mindedness
In the interview which he put up alongside his Twitter post, Mr Chaudhry, who was recently removed from the all-important information ministry and handed a less important science and technology portfolio, said: “Decisions should be made by elected members. There are some objections over non-elected members that should be considered.”
“The real strength is the Parliament and the elected people. You cannot surpass them,” he maintained, adding that when in government they could not redo the party and hand over the authority to people who had not even served as a councillor in their life.
“Ultimately, the decision is of the prime minister,” said Mr Chaudhry, while asserting that the issue of distribution of authority demanded attention.
In a cabinet reshuffle in April this year, Prime Minister Imran Khan replaced Mr Chaudhry from the federal information ministry with Ms Awan appointing her his special assistant on information.
Referring to the cabinet reshuffle, Mr Chaudhry acknowledged that he faced a lot of interference from non-elected members when he was running the information ministry. “There were too many people trying to manage the ministry. There should be a definite position,” he said.
Civil-military ties termed best
“You had left international media management on the military’s public relations wing [ISPR]. I brought it back and gave it a civilian face,” he claimed, saying that if the armed forces were kept on the front on the international stage, it would impact the country’s image.
However, the minister said that civil-military relations under the PTI government were the best in the country’s history. “There is no doubt that military is very powerful in Pakistan. It is the most organised institution. However, should the military run the country? No. It is the civilian institutions and the government that have to do that,” he said.
If the ISPR, he added, decided it wanted to present Pakistan’s narrative, it would. “It has the system, the power and capability to do this. But should they do this? The answer is no. Pakistan’s civilian government should be doing this,” Mr Chaudhry maintained.
The minister also expressed disagreement over allowing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Shahbaz Sharif to go abroad, and warned against letting Nawaz Sharif leave the country. “If at this point you let Nawaz Sharif go abroad, your politics would fail,” he said.
“Shahbaz Sharif went abroad. I first said he should not be made Public Accounts Committee chairman, he was made PAC chairman. Then, I said he should not be allowed to leave the country, we would be blamed. Nobody put him on the Exit Control List and he went abroad. All these decisions affect us,” he regretted. Soon after the interview was aired, the minister tweeted: “Some headlines of my interview are misleading it’s important to hear what actually I said.”
‘Team work not interference’
Commenting on the claims made by Mr Chaudhry, PM’s Special Assistant on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan said that all decisions in the government were made at the behest of the party leadership under Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“Those who have contributed to the party for 22 years cannot be sidelined. Terming teamwork interference is reflective of small-mindedness,” she said during an interview to a private TV channel.
Denying claims made by her predecessor regarding interference from non-elected members in the information ministry, Ms Awan said: “This is not a one man show. Everyone is a stakeholder in the ministry. It is about management and distribution of work.”
“He [Fawad Chaudhry] was the in charge and had the authority to make decisions. If anyone is not able to establish authority and manage teamwork it is a matter of capacity of competency,” she remarked, adding that the placements [cabinet reshuffle] were made because there were concerns over quality of performance.
Ms Awan added the minster should approach the party leadership over his points of difference and not make such claims on media.
Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2019