ISLAMABAD: Internal rifts within the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government surfaced again on Tuesday when Prime Minister Imran Khan had to intervene and stop federal ministers from hurling allegations against one another during the cabinet meeting.
Unusual scenes were witnessed in the cabinet meeting after one of the ministers raised the issue of federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry’s interview to Voice of America (VOA) in which the latter said rifts among senior party leaders allowed non-elected members, who were unaware of PM’s vision, to join the cabinet.
While Mr Fawad stuck to his remarks against non-elected members in the cabinet meeting, federal Minister for Water Resources lamented some senior party leaders’ role in his outrage.
Insiders said Prime Minister Khan was angry at the interview and directed PTI leaders to avoid discussing internal party matters openly. “Yes, the issue of Fawad Chaudhry’s interview was discussed in the meeting and the prime minister expressed displeasure on it,” said Minister for Information Senator Shibli Faraz in a post-cabinet meeting press conference.
PM tells cabinet members not to discuss party’s internal issues in public
Senator Faraz said PM Khan was of the opinion that party’s internal issues should not be discussed at open forums.
Mr Fawad in his interview with VOA had discussed internal rifts within the party ranks and said PTI stalwarts managed to remove one another, as Jehangir Tareen was behind the removal of Asad Umar from the cabinet while the latter managed ousting of Mr Tareen. He said non-elected persons had replaced elected representatives in close circle of the prime minister, who were unaware of the basic aims and objectives of the party.
The issues of elected and non-elected cabinet members had already come in the media in the past when some party leaders at different forums had criticised the role of special assistants and advisers to the premier.
According to some media reports, federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar during the cabinet meeting complained to PM Khan that Mr Fawad had blamed him (Asad) for the removal of Mr Tareen from the party.
On this, Mr Fawad said if it was not true, then he (Asad) better tell the federal cabinet that he had no role in that.
Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda also complained to the Prime Minister about what he called “interference” of some senior party leaders in his ministry. When contacted, Mr Fawad confirmed to Dawn that the prime minister was not happy over his interview to VOA. He said the PM was of the opinion that differences existed everywhere but they should not be discussed openly.
The federal minister said he told Mr Khan that he had just given his analysis during the interview and he stood by what he had said.
He added that Mr Vawda also spoke against federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, PM’s aides Razzaq Dawood and Nadeem Babar.
Supporting the stance of Mr Vawda, Mr Fawad said: “We are not answerable to any minister and adviser.”
Later, in a private TV talk show, Mr Vawda also said: “We are not answerable to anyone in the party, but to Imran Khan.” He added that Mr Fawad too had said so in the cabinet meeting.
The minister also disclosed that important documents were released to the media from some ministry in an attempt to malign the Prime Minister. Mr Vawda, however, did not elaborate who released such documents. “Such things are leaked and this happens in politics,” he remarked.
Asked if the prime minister had stopped him during his outrage against his colleagues, the minister said: “No, Imran Khan did not stop me.”
Mr Umar and Mr Qureshi were not available for comments despite several attempts by Dawn to contact them.
Wheat import allowed
At the media briefing, Senator Faraz also gave details of other decisions of the cabinet meeting.
He said the meeting approved import of wheat to cater local consumption. “Our requirement is 27m tonnes of wheat and presently we have 25m tonnes. The gap of 2m tonnes will be filled through import of wheat,” he added.
The information minister said the Punjab government had been asked to release 9m tonnes of wheat to ensure smooth supply of the commodity in the market and to keep its price stable.
He said a committee, headed PM’s Adviser on Finance Dr Hafeez Sheikh, was formed to streamline issues related to purchase of wheat from Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation Limited (Passco), smuggling etc.
About the sugar crisis in the country, the cabinet decided to implement “matrix of action” recommended by the sugar inquiry commission against sugar barons within the timeline set for the purpose. Due to the actions being taken by the government, the price of sugar would reduce within three months, he said.
The cabinet meeting also reviewed arrangements for combating Covid-19 and feared that its peak would come in August.
Besides, it also expressed satisfaction over the work done for uniform school curriculum in the country.
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2020