PESHAWAR: While the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is still struggling to keep the coalition governments intact at centre and in Punjab, cracks appeared in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet with the sacking of three key ministers in one go on Sunday.

Senior minister for tourism Mohammad Atif Khan, health minister Shahram Tarakai and revenue minister Shakeel Ahmad paid the price for “plotting” against KP Chief Minister Mah­mood Khan, a day after CM’s meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad.

The KP governor, in exercise of powers conferred upon him under clause 3 of Article 132 read with clause 1 of Article 105 of the Constitution, was pleased to de-notify the three provincial ministers from their offices, said a notification issued by the administration department. “On their de-notification from their respective offices, they have ceased to hold the portfolios of provincial ministers with immediate effect,” said the notification.

The notification was issued a couple of days after the tourism minister had invited nearly a dozen lawmakers belonging to the ruling party to a dinner arranged at Mr Shahram’s residence in Hayatabad and the statements issued by the provincial ministers against CM Mahmood on Friday evening proved to be the last nail in the coffin.

Amid the political turmoil racking the province, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly session, which was scheduled to resume on Monday (today), has been postponed for at least 10 days. According to a notification issued by the assembly secretariat, the provincial assembly proceedings have been further adjourned till Feb 7.

Insiders said the decision regarding dismissal of the ministers was taken on Jan 10 during the PM’s visit to Nowshera where he had inaugurated Azakhel Dry Port.

Speaking to Dawn, Information minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai said the sacked ministers were involved in creating a forward bloc and their activities were harming the party. He alleged that the group of the three ministers was trying to fail the incumbent CM by not owning cabinet decisions. “The sacked ministers were involved in grouping within the party and did not own decisions of the cabinet,” Mr Yousafzai said.

These people were “indirectly attacking PM Khan” by levelling false allegations of corruption against CM Mahmood, as he was PM’s choice, the information minister said. “Imran Khan had nominated Mahmood Khan as chief minister and these people [cabinet members] were trying to replace him [Mahmood] since the day he became the CM,” he added.

Mr Yousafzai did not deny that senior minister Atif Khan had been aspiring for the top office when the PTI came to power for a second term in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The information minister disclosed that the attempts to fail the CM had been going on for quite some time. He said efforts had been made to remove their reservations but nothing worked and eventually they had to be removed from the cabinet. “The chief minister made his efforts to remove differences and reservations but when these ministers came out in the media, it harmed the party. Therefore, the step to remove them from the cabinet was taken. He [Mr Atif] had not accepted Mr Mahmood as chief minister and had been opposing him since then,” Mr Yousafzai said.

The insiders said the lawmakers who had joined the Friday gathering at Mr Shahram’s home would soon receive show-cause notices from the party leadership seeking explanation about what they were up to at the dinner-party.

Coming from industrial families of Mardan and Swabi districts, Mr Atif and Mr Shahram had family ties and both remained ministers in the previous PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In the second term, they were accommodated again in the KP cabinet.

Mr Shahram had dissolved his political party, Pakistan Awami Jamohori-Ittehad (PAJ-I), mainly dominated by his own family members, to join the PTI.

While none of the ministers was available for comments, member of the National Assembly Usman Tarakai, who is uncle of Mr Shahram, said they would see whether PM Khan was ready or not to give due attention to their serious grievances after which they would plan their future line of action, adds Our Correspondent from Swabi.

Mr Usman said: “We will see the attitude of the prime minister whether he is ready to hear us or not. If he failed to give due weight to us, then we will adopt our own future political course.”

He said the removal of the three ministers holding the portfolios of health, tourism, culture, sports, and revenue and estate from the KP cabinet was a “big surprise” for him.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2020