LAHORE: A day after a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar reshuffled his cabinet on Friday by asking his aides on information and political affairs, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Awn Chaudhry, to step down.

Dr Awan formally tendered her resignation to secure a safe exit in the face of differences with the chief executive of the province.

Mr Chaudhry was de-notified as the CM’s special coordinator on political affairs as he reportedly did not agree to part ways with the Jahangir Tareen group. “I was asked to part ways with Mr Jahangir Tareen but I refused,” sources quoted Chaudhry as saying.

Meanwhile, the CM met MPA Malik Asad Khokhar and informed him that he was being inducted into the cabinet. Mr Khokhar had earlier served as the wildlife and fisheries minister for over six months last year, but resigned over apparently not being able to focus on his constituency. He had also served as the in-charge of Chief Minister’s Complaint Cell.

The MPA was scheduled to take oath as the provincial minister on Saturday (today) but the event is likely to be delayed, as his brother was shot dead on Friday at the walima ceremony of the lawmaker’s son -- minutes after CM Buzdar had left the venue.

Awn Chaudhry denotified as CM’s aide for not parting ways with Tareen

The immediate acceptance of Dr Awan’s resignation has finally closed the chapter of her rift with the CM, who was upset with his aide for going beyond her limits and making announcements that Mr Buzdar himself wished to make.

Sensing displeasure of her boss, Dr Awan had earlier announced her resignation at a press conference ahead of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir elections as well as the by-election in her Sialkot constituency stating that she wanted a free hand to spearhead the election campaign. However, minutes later she disclosed that PM Khan had directed her to continue working to highlight the Punjab government’s achievements.

Sources say Dr Awan had become a thorn in CM Buzdar’s side as she was singlehandedly appearing on TV shows and also bypassing the CM in making important announcements.

However, Dr Awan on her part maintains that projecting the Punjab government’s achievements all by herself was a Herculean task, as no one was sharing the burden with her. She claims she was supposed to appear on TV shows every day to counter a range of opposition spokespersons -- from Marriyum Aurangzeb, Azma Bokhari, Atta Tarar to Ahsan Iqbal and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

“Instead of pitying me and sharing the burden, my colleagues were asking why only I was on TV all the time,” she lamented, adding she kept looking for an “ideal situation” when she could take a breather and the large number of cabinet members share the responsibility of talking about their respective departments.

“When no one will represent the Punjab government, someone will have to, and it was my job also. Jo dikhta hai, woh bikta hai,” she added.

Dr Awan told Dawn that she had been the federal information minister twice and needed no projection for herself. Her job was to build the image of the CM and that could only happen when someone went in the field and played the role. She claimed she would call several ministers to speak up against the propaganda against their respective departments or at least tweet about it.

“It was an uphill task for me to keep contacting ministers and persuading them to present the performance of their departments, and many a time I was not fortunate enough to get their support,” she bemoaned.

Some provincial ministers, however, told Dawn that Dr Awan would indeed invite them to hold joint press conferences, but mostly she would hijack the events and they would just sit as onlookers.

Dr Awan also said there was a massive communication gap in Punjab, which was why PM Khan had sent her to the province he called a “PTI battleground”.

In her resignation citing unavoidable personal grounds, Dr Awan said it was a pleasure that she was assigned the important responsibility of highlighting the performance of the Punjab government as the CM’s aide on information. She said she put in her efforts with utmost dedication to signify the government’s achievements in the areas of governance and diversified landscape of development.

“I am indebted to the Prime Minister for posing confidence in me to undertake this Herculean task with vigour and zeal and the support rendered by the chief minister from time to time,” she acknowledged.

Speaking to Geo News, Awan said Buzdar told her on Friday that PM Khan wanted to assign her responsibility in the Centre. “Since I am committed to PM Khan, I will act according to his will.”

Meanwhile, Awn Chaudhry shared his resignation letter with the media and said he knew why he was called to meet the chief minister and had brought it (resignation) with him.

In the letter, the PTI leader expressed anger over the treatment meted out him by the party. “I served the PTI, wholeheartedly, completely ignoring my personal life and family for a cause. Sadly, I was rewarded by being removed right before the oath-taking ceremony of PM Khan which I accepted with grace,” he stated.

“I was then made adviser to the CM without any portfolio in Punjab and again I was removed unceremoniously and I even accepted that.”

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2021

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