PM wants PTI leaders to back Azam Swati, Fawad Chaudhry in row with ECP

Published November 2, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan receives a briefing from the economic team on Monday. — PID
Prime Minister Imran Khan receives a briefing from the economic team on Monday. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday expressed displeasure over ‘grilling’ of two federal ministers by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and directed other leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to stand by them on the matter.

The prime minister, however, barred PTI leaders from commenting on government’s latest deal with the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as a source claimed that PM Khan wanted to keep the TLP chief behind bars.

Besides, Mr Khan claimed that the government would soon announce a comprehensive relief package for inflation-hit people.

He expressed these views while presiding over PTI’s core committee meeting, which was held a day after the government signed a secret deal with the TLP to keep protesters from marching on the federal capital.

Directs party leaders not to divulge details of deal with TLP

Separately, Aqeel Karim Dhedhi called on the prime minister and appreciated government measures for economic reforms. Mr Dhedhi, who was also one of the guarantors of the deal with the TLP, was leading a delegation of businessmen.

Talking to Dawn, federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry quoted the prime minister as telling the core committee that both the ministers — Fawad Chaudhry and Azam Swati — had not spoken for electoral reforms in their own interests but on behalf of the whole government and it was quite unfortunate that no other PTI leader was standing by the two ministers on the issue.

Earlier on Oct 27, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) gave 15 more days to the two ministers to submit their replies to the show-cause notice issued to them for their “caustic” remarks and serious allegations against the ECP and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. The two ministers had been summoned by the ECP last week to explain their “slanderous” remarks a month after being issued the notices.

In September, the ECP as well as opposition parties had raised a number of objections to the government’s unilateral decision for introduction of e-voting machines. Just a couple of days after the objections were raised, Mr Swati accused the ECP of taking “bribes and always rigging” polls and said such institutions should be “set on fire”. A few hours after Mr Swati’s statement, Mr Chaudhry addressing a presser called the CEC “a mouthpiece of the opposition” and alleged that the commission had turned into the “opposition’s headquarters”.

Economic situation

While chairing a meeting to review economy, PM Khan directed the authorities concerned to take measures to bring down prices of essential commodities after he was apprised of inflationary trend in the international commodity market and petroleum prices.

Mr Khan said: “Like our exemplary response to Covid-19 pandemic, we are working hard to mitigate negative impacts of international inflation, especially in petroleum products and food items.”

He said stabilising macroeconomic indicators in the country was government’s top priority to spur economic growth.

Earlier, the prime minister was briefed about overall economic situation at the meeting. Minister for Economic Affairs Omar Ayub Khan, Energy Minister Hammad Azhar, Industries Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Minister for National Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam, Planning Minister Asad Umar, Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood, Finance Adviser Shaukat Tarin, Special Assistant to PM Dr Shehbaz Gill and State Bank Governor Dr Reza Baqir attended the meeting.

Meeting with businessmen

The prime minister also discussed the country’s economic situation with a delegation of businessmen, headed by Aqeel Karim Dhedhi, in a separate meeting. The finance adviser was also present.

He highlighted the need for growth in large-scale manufacturing sector to boost job opportunities for skilled workers.

The prime minister said the government focused on lasting economic stability in the country. Despite Covid-19, he said, the government remained successful in carrying out medium- to long-term economic reforms that led to stability of economic profile.

Mr Dhedi appreciated government’s measures for economic revival, acknowledging that they would have far-reaching positive impact on industrial and economic growth.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2021

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