KARACHI: As a close fight is expected between Pakistan Democratic Movement’s candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani and incumbent Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh on an Islamabad Senate seat, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on Sunday formally approached its coalition partner Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan to seek its seven votes in the National Assembly.
Rumours are doing round that former president Asif Ali Zardari has assigned to a key aide the task of contacting the MQM-P for the party’s votes for Mr Gilani since the PTI and its coalition partners enjoy a thin majority in the lower house and even one vote will matter.
A high-level PTI delegation headed by Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar and comprising Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh and Fauzia Arshad — both the PTI candidates for Senate from Islamabad — Privatisation Minister Mohammadmian Soomro and others arrived at MQM-P’s temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad as part of their election campaign.
Asad, Hafeez agreed to allocate funds in next budget for early population census, says Subzwari
The PTI leaders met MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, senior leaders Amir Khan, Faisal Subzwari, Fedreal Minister Aminul Haque and others and discussed overall political situation with a specific reference to the March 3 Senate election.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, senior MQM-P leader Faisal Subzwari said that both the PTI and MQM-P had serious reservations over the National Census 2017 due to which the federal cabinet in its recommendations sent to the Council of Common Interest (CCI) had proposed to hold a new census as soon as possible.
Accompanied by Mr Umar and Mr Sheikh, Subzwari claimed that the government had agreed in today’s meeting to allocate a substantial fund for holding an early population census in the country in the federal budget for the financial year 2021-22.
“Our only demand [with the PTI government] is to end the sense of deprivation prevailing in urban Sindh,” he said, without making a clear announcement with regard to his party’s position in the Senate election.
In response to a question as to why PTI gave tickets to Faisal Vawda and Hafeez Sheikh despite serious internal reservations, Mr Umar said that PTI was a democratic party where people got a difference of opinion on every candidate other than Imran Khan. However, he said, Mr Sheikh was the only candidate whose candidature was finalised without a major debate as Prime Minister Khan was satisfied with his performance.
When asked as to why the PTI did not field any retired military officer for the Senate poll although it had been appointing such persons to head various lucrative departments, he said the party took decisions in view of the suitability of the people and not on the basis of their uniform. “Although men in uniform are also good people and it is not bad to appoint them,” he hastily added.
About the fate of the presidential reference on open ballot for Senate poll, he said: “We want to show our voter that we have done whatever we could to ensure transparency in the election. But, politically speaking, if the election is held on the basis of old procedure then PTI and its allied parties may take one or two additional seats...there is no threat of losing.”
Accusing the Sindh government of political victimisation of its opponents, he said that those who were raising voice against the provincial government were being arrested. “We will find some solution definitely. Today, a meeting is being held and we will act on the recommendations of the provincial set-up of the PTI.”
Hafeez Sheikh told the media said that it was an election between two parties and not between two individuals. “We want this election to be held in a transparent and civilised manner. So we will try to ensure holding of this election in a very transparent manner.”
He said when the PTI came to power in 2018 the economic situation of the country had become so deteriorated that Imran Khan had to go to the IMF. He claimed that the government had curtailed its own expenditures and increased the tax base by 17 per cent before the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that after the pandemic around 15 million families were given cash relief without any discrimination across the country.
“We have to expand our businesses if we want to create employment,” he said, adding that Pakistan’s exports were on the rise despite the fact that our neighbours were witnessing a downward trend.
“We are facing challenges but the focus of this government is solely on Pakistani people and not families or friends of functionaries,” he said, and claimed that the prime minister had paid over Rs 6,500 billion under the head of interest on past loans alone since 2018.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2021