ISLAMABAD: At a time when the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is busy wooing its estranged allies, the internal differences within the party’s Karachi chapter surfaced on the last day of the National Assembly session on Wednesday as its three MNAs from the Sindh capital protested over the attitude of Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi, who belongs to the same city.
Angry over the minister’s response to their calling attention notice regarding “the delay in construction of a 45-kilometre bridge to connect Karachi Port with Port Qasim”, all the three MNAs rushed to the minister’s seat to lodge their protest and threatened to stage a walkout from the assembly.
At first, Mr Zaidi expressed annoyance over the members’ act of bringing the matter to the floor of the assembly and then he taunted them by claiming that the three MNAs had sought his help in getting the party ticket for contesting elections.
The rift within the PTI surfaced at a time when there were reports regarding formation of groups in the party’s Sindh chapter and when the ruling party is in dialogue with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Grand Democratic Alliance and other allies to remove their concerns over “non-implementation of the formula” agreed at the time of formation of a coalition at the Centre.
Taking the floor to respond to the calling attention notice moved by Faheem Khan, Attuallah and Muhammad Akram Cheema, the minister remarked that had these members discussed the issue with him privately he would have satisfied them, but since they had brought the matter to parliament he was ready to respond on the floor of the house.
Minister’s response to calling attention notice annoys three MNAs
When the members expressed their dissatisfaction over the minister’s response and Mr Cheema asked the minister not to run the affairs on an ad hoc basis, Speaker Asad Qaiser directed Mr Zaidi to maintain coordination with the three members.
Upon receiving the directives from the chair, Mr Zaidi stated that the MNAs could have contacted him personally, but they preferred to choose the assembly floor.
“I have not changed my phone number,” the minister said, adding that he had the same phone number on which these MNAs used to call him for seeking party tickets.
This response angered the MNAs who went to Mr Zaidi’s chair and protested over his remarks. One of the protesting members was heard saying “we have not got the party ticket on charity”.
They said they would not let the minister speak, if he continued to taunt them in this manner.
Some treasury members rushed to the protesting MNAs to prevent an ugly incident and prevented them from staging a walkout.
Earlier, responding to the calling attention notice, the minister informed the assembly that a detailed study had been carried out to address Karachi’s transport problems.
Mr Zaidi said the members of the Maritime Advisory Council, which had been established to strengthen the maritime sector, were working without any financial benefit. He said his ministry was awaiting a green signal from the Ministry of Defence and other departments concerned to start some projects because of their location in the sea near the border.
MNA Attaullah drew the attention of the minister to the lack of basic facilities in Karachi South, where the port is situated. He alleged that the condition of the KPT Hospital was bad. The residents of a number of localities, including Machchar Colony and Shershah, did not even have drinking water facility.
He said that despite generating billions of rupees for the country, the people of the area did not have basic facilities.
The minister, however, said the problems in the areas like Machchar Colony and Sikandarabad were because of encroachments.
Earlier, during the question hour, another PTI MNA from Rajanpur Sardar Riaz Mazari alleged that 21 people of his constituency had got jobs in Pakistan Railways without merit and after paying Rs150,000 each.
Parliamentary Secretary for Railways Farrukh Habib said that the member had made a serious allegation and promised to look into the matter and take action against those found involved in the alleged scam.
Later, speaking on a point of order, Aliya Kamran of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) talked about the worst situation in Balochistan due to recent cold wave and heavy snowfall. She criticised the performance of the National Disaster Management Authority, stating that the NDMA should have used a helicopter as air ambulance to help the people trapped in the disaster.
She said Prime Minister Imran Khan had travelled to Azad Kashmir after the weather-related incidents, but he had not visited Balochistan “as it is not a part of Pakistan”.
Responding to the MMA member, Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said a request would be made to the prime minister to give compensation to the people affected by the rain and snowfall in Azad Jammu and Kashmir as well as Balochistan.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020