Senior KP minister mustering support against CM

Updated January 25, 2020

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Upset by rejection of his cabinet nominations, Atif Khan holds lavish dinner for MPAs. — Atif Khan Twitter account
Upset by rejection of his cabinet nominations, Atif Khan holds lavish dinner for MPAs. — Atif Khan Twitter account

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa senior minister Mohammad Atif Khan threw a lavish dinner for provincial lawmakers on Friday night apparently to muster support to take on Chief Minister Mahmood Khan amid reports of an intensifying jockeying for power between the two.

The event took place a day after an alleged showdown between Mr Atif and Mr Mahmood in a provincial cabinet meeting, which the government was quick to deny.

Sources said around 25 MPAs were invited to the dinner at the senior minister’s Hayatabad residence.

It was immediately not clear as to how many of the invitees turned up and what its agenda was as people in the Atif camp were tightlipped and he himself wasn’t available despite repeated attempts.

On Thursday even after the provincial government denied the cabinet showdown reports, Mohammad Ali Tarakai, an uncle of health minister Shahram Khan Tarakai, who is considered to be a close aide of Mr Atif, ended up at the DawnNews talk show, Newseye, and vented his spleen against his own party’s provincial government, giving credence to the speculation of turf war in the ruling PTI. Elder Tarakai even hinted at leaving the setup.

Upset by rejection of his cabinet nominations, Atif Khan holds lavish dinner for MPAs

However, sources told Dawn that Mr Tarakai along with an MPA from Hazara division were the Atif group’s candidate for a portfolio in the recent cabinet reshuffle.

However, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan was not ready to give Mr Tarakai any cabinet office insisting that his Swabi district is amply represented in the current federal and provincial dispensation.

The National Assembly’s speaker and health minister are from the district, while the Tarakai family has the lion’s share of the district’s representation in the federal and provincial assemblies.

Sources said Mr Atif, who was once in the running for the chief minister’s post like Mahmood Khan and still nursed old wounds, took the rejection of his cabinet nominees to heart, while his closest ally in the provincial cabinet, Shahram Khan Tarakai, losing the local government department added insult to injury.

The LG portfolio was given away to a politically novice, Kamran Khan Bangash, while Mr Shahram got back the health department.

Another source said the reports of the imminent change of the Punjab chief minister were probably single most important factor that led to the uprising against Mahmood Khan.

“It gave the people, who were against Mahmood Khan, some ideas,” he said.

The source said Mr Atif also thought that some of the ministers, who had lost portfolios in the recent reshuffle, would also back him up but at least two of them didn’t do so.

Ziaullah Bangash, who lost the portfolio for elementary and secondary education in the recent cabinet reshuffle, issued a video message on his Facebook account declaring that he trusted the leadership of Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, who would lead the province for the next five years.

He also asked senior minister Mohammad Atif Khan to contribute to the province’s development together with the chief minister.

Another source said a minister, who was also unhappy about the change of his portfolio and even did not attend the cabinet meeting, had also sided with the chief minister.

He said the issue had been brought to the notice of Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday, who was likely to take it up on return from Davos.

Provincial information minister Shaukat Yousafzai was not available for comments.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2020