ISLAMABAD: Following ‘annoyance’ shown by government allies, a rift has also been observed within Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) ranks over delivery and performance of the federal authorities and the Punjab government.
One of the important cabinet members — Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chuadhry, who is known for his blunt remarks — has written a letter to the prime minister, raising questions over performance of his [PM’s] protege and chief minister of Punjab Usman Buzdar and saying the provincial government was giving a bad name to the ruling PTI due to its “poor” performance.
Mr Chaudhry’s outburst on the issue of the chief minister’s performance was also heard in the PTI core committee’s meeting chaired by the prime minister on Thursday.
On the other hand, the opposition believes that annoyance shown by disgruntled government allies and reservations shown by PTI’s own leaders including Fawad was an indication that “a whistle has been blown against Prime Minister Imran Khan”.
In view of growing complaints of the allies and within the ruling party’s ranks regarding lack of development activities in the country, the prime minister has tasked Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar to hold a meeting with provincial authorities, especially in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the PTI is ruling, and ensure distribution of funds to the district level by announcing provincial finance awards.
Opposition believes Fawad’s outburst shows that ‘whistle’ has been blown for change of PM
Interestingly, PTI leaders in the party’s recent parliamentary committee’s meeting had complained about ignoring of party workers in financial assistance cover being given by the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to the needy people. They raised fingers at BISB Chairperson and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar for not providing monthly financial assistance to the PTI’s deserving worker and supporters.
Then in a recent PTI’s core committee meeting, some party leaders complained about non-provision of development funds and no development activity in their constituencies.
The PTI’s coalition partners — Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) — have expressed their reservations over their alliance with the ruling party, compelling the prime minister to form a committee of senior PTI leaders to appease the allied parties.
Now the letter written by Fawad to the PM is believed to be a serious blow to the PTI over its governments’ performance at the Centre as well as in Punjab. The letter said: “Each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political administrative and financial responsibility, and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments. It is noted with great concern that provinces have been continuously violating Article 140A of the Constitution, and the grossest violation is the inequitable distribution of funds among the districts. As a matter of fact, Punjab receives the highest share in the National Finance Commission Award, but since Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif took over Punjab as the chief minister, he had immediately halted provincial National Finance Commission Award, which is a serious violation of the Article 140A of the Constitution. Unfortunately, the incumbent government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, despite the passage of sixteen months, has yet not announced the provincial NFC Award.”
The letter said non-compliance of Article 140A and inequitable distribution of funds to districts had caused disappointment and disillusionment among the people. Though strong federation demands an equitable division of resources among the provinces and to district level. “The Punjab government is being run in a way as it was run by the last Shahbaz Sharif regime,” Mr Chaudhry said while talking to Dawn.
When contacted, senior political analyst Sohail Warraich said Prime Minister Khan had already curtailed powers of CM Buzdar by delegating his powers to Chief Secretary of Punjab Azam Salman and Inspector General of police Shoaib Dastagir, therefore blaming the chief minister for lack of performance was “illogical”. He, however, said: “Things will not change unless there will be a political ownership in the province to resolve people’s problems.”
Mr Warraich said he did not foresee any imminent change in the Punjab government and that Mr Buzdar would continue to serve as chief minister.
Mr Warraich agreed that there was a ‘myth’ that Imran Khan would not replace the chief minister because in case he was changed, the survival of the prime minister would also come under “threat”.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) spokesman Farhatullah Babar said opposition shown by the government allies and now by PTI’s own leaders was an indication that “a whistle has been blown for removal of Imran Khan and replacing of the prime minister with anybody else.”
“Discontent in the PTI leaders is quite significant in the current scenario,” he added.
Mr Babar said it seemed that Prime Minister Khan believed that Chief Minister Buzdar was “indispensible” because according to some media reports Mr Buzdar was the “nominee of the first lady”.
Fawad Chaudhry said the annual development budget of Punjab for the year 2019-20 was over Rs340 billion but only Rs83bn had been released so far. “The amount utilised out of Rs83bn would be less than the released funds,” he added.
On the other hand, according to media reports, Punjab government’s spokesman claimed that the provincial government had so far released Rs179bn — 58 per cent of total annual development budget of the province.
The spokesperson claimed that the government had also spent Rs44bn under public-private-partnership mode of investment.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2020