ISLAMABAD: After completing almost half of his government’s tenure, Prime Minister Imran Khan has met the long-standing demand of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers for development funds for their constituencies and announced grant of Rs500 million for each member of National Assembly and provincial assemblies under sustainable development goals so that they can carry out development schemes for their voters.
The decision was taken in a meeting of the parliamentary party of the ruling alliance led by the PTI at the Parliament House on Wednesday.
The meeting presided over by the prime minister discussed various issues, including the opposition’s movement, coming Senate elections, the Broadsheet saga, Rs1.1 trillion Karachi Transformation Plan, a recent incident of ransacking a Hindu temple in Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Tharparkar Development Package and the return of PTI leader Jahangir Tareen in decision making process in the party.
‘The prime minister announced Rs500m for each MNA and PMA so that they can initiate development schemes in their constituencies,” a minister told Dawn after attending the meeting.
PTI parliamentarians question role of technocrats in cabinet; want Tareen back in party’s decision-making process
Most of the participants demanded development funds while some questioned the role of technocrats in the cabinet. It was also demanded that PTI stalwart Tareen, who had vanished from the party scene after being accused of getting “undue” benefits during last years’ sugar scandal, should be brought again in the party’s mainstream and be made a member of a committee to be constituted for coming Senate polls.
Addressing the meeting, Prime Minister Khan said the Pakistan Democratic Movement had almost collapsed after cracks had appeared in the opposition parties’ alliance. The prime minister was quoted as saying, “the PDM has virtually vanished. It tried its best to bring people to streets but failed.”
He said the opposition wanted to create problems for the government through the foreign funding case being heard by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). “But the opposition itself plunged into the ditch it had dug for us.”
PTI leader Noor Alam raised his voice against the role of technocrats in the federal cabinet and said, “These technocrats will go one day and the elected representatives will have to face the people.”
Later talking to Dawn, Mr Alam confirmed that he had asked the prime minister to review the role of technocrats in the cabinet
According to him, he said in the meeting that besides technocrats, all ministers should also be made accountable for their “low” performance. “Wheat flour, pulses, sugar and other essential items are not available [in the market] while the PM’s advisers are painting a rosy picture of stability in economy,” he said.
Mr Alam said that his grievances might be a source of displeasure for the prime minister but he had expressed them because he was sincere with the party.
Return of Tareen
A PTI leader from Faisalabad, Raja Riaz, demanded in the meeting that Jahangir Tareen should be made a member of a committee to be formed to devise a plan for contesting coming Senate elections.
When contacted, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said Mr Riaz had raised the demand but it was his personal opinion.
Shibli, Gill exchanges harsh words
After the parliamentary party meeting, Mr Faraz and Special Assistant to the PM on political communication Dr Shahbaz Gill exchanged hot words in the corridors of Parliament House.
While they were heading to hold a press conference, Mr Shahbaz started talking to some media persons who were asking for some details of the meeting.
Mr Faraz asked Dr Shahbaz not to disclose details of the meeting and say whatever he wanted to in the press conference. On this, Mr Shahbaz asked the information minister why he was humiliating him in front of media persons.
Karachi Transformation Plan
Some of the PTI lawmakers, particularly those belonging to Karachi, expressed displeasure over what they called a “delay” in implementation of Rs1.1tr Karachi Transformation Plan, the programme to address basic civic issues in the metropolis.
The prime minister responded that work on the plan was being carried out as the federal government could not leave people of Karachi at the mercy of the Sindh government.
Meanwhile, some women MNAs also demanded development funds but their demand was turned down by the prime minister. “You have come to the parliament on special seats and have no constituency so where you will spend the funds,” he asked.
Later, at the press conference, the information minister said the component parties of the PDM lacked unity as they were pursuing conflicting narratives and interests.
He said that the PPP wanted to move a no- confidence motion but the PML-N had a different point of view. He said that the PDM had earlier announced many other steps but failed to achieve any target.
“If the opposition moves a no-confidence motion against the prime minister in the National Assembly it would meet the same fate like the opposition’s other steps,” he added.
Mr Faraz said that in the parliamentary party meeting Minister for Finance Hafeez Sheikh gave a briefing on the economy, adding that the opposition has been continuously spreading negative propaganda regarding loans.
“Out of Rs11tr loans, Rs 6tr was utilised for repayment of previous loans and interest, Rs1.2tr was provided to support different sectors, particularly disadvantaged segments of the society in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, while Rs3tr was used to counter the impact of change in dollar and rupee parity,” he said.
Mr Faraz claimed that the prices of edibles like cooking oil, wheat and sugar had increased in the international market, which had cast an impact on the local market. “However, fall in the price of LNG in the international market would also result in price fall in Pakistan,” he added.
Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2021