• Shehbaz wants deal for his son and Maryam: PM’s aide
• Rashid sees no role for ‘all the four Sharifs’ in politics
• Sanaullah dispels impression of rift within party
LAHORE: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has claimed that at least four leaders of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) went to meet and tell ‘someone’ they should be considered if their party supremo did not suit them.
“PML-N’s four top leaders met someone and told him that Nawaz Sharif did great wrong to the country [so] why don’t they consider them,” the federal minister said, adding that an interesting race was going on within the opposition party. “You all know them as they sit in the front row of the party,” smirked Mr Chaudhry when asked to name the four leaders during his interaction with the media at Lahore Press Club on Sunday.
However, prime minister’s aide on political communication Shahbaz Gill during his presser in Faisalabad alleged that leader of the opposition Shehbaz Sharif had “asked for a deal for four people”, according to Geo News. Special consideration had been sought for Nawaz Sharif, his daughter, Mr Shehbaz and his son, Mr Gill alleged, adding that the request was made for the latter three individuals to be allowed to flee the country whereas “Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will stay”.
Also, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed earlier talking to the media in Rawalpindi denounced the impression of any deal with the opposition party. He said the PML-N had false hopes for some kind of ‘deal’ but he would like to make it clear that this time their leaders would get neither deal nor dheel (any leniency) in accountability. Failure was the destiny of PML-N policies, he said, adding that he could see ‘all the four Sharifs’ would have no role in national politics.
Addressing the media at Lahore Press Club, the information minister also downplayed the opposition’s announcement that it would be holding a long march in coming months or could move a no-confidence motion in the assembly. Mr Chaudhry said the opposition was flexing its muscles from the very first year of the PTI government, asserting that the three major opposition parties did not even trust one another. “If a party leadership is away, leaders of the other opposition parties start expressing their fear that the former might be striving for a ‘deal’,” he commented.
When contacted, PML-N’s Punjab chapter president Rana Sanaullah categorically denied the information minister’s statement about the meeting of the four PML-N leaders with ‘someone’, terming it ‘factually wrong’. “If ‘someone’ means establishment or more precisely the army chief, no one can meet him without prior intimation and agenda,” he said.
The information minister earlier told the journalists that the current price-hike of essential commodities was directly linked to ex-premier Nawaz Sharif. “If this government ignores the ‘reason’ behind inflation, how it will control inflation,” he asked. He elaborated that Pakistan had borrowed a total of Rs6 trillion loan until 2008 to establish organisations and complete mega projects, but the previous two governments took Rs23trn loan from 2008 to 2018. The PTI government during its five-year stint was supposed to return $55 billion of the loan, he said, adding that $32bn of the amount had been paid back till date.
He said Mr Nawaz had been staying at the most expensive property in London, whereas the Sharif family also had a lane of houses in Lahore. He further alleged ex-president Asif Zardari during his Dubai visits used to book a complete floor of lavish hotels. “The PTI government cannot ignore them in the context of inflation in the country,” he remarked.
About PTI’s prospects in the next general elections, Mr Chaudhry said the PML-N and PPP had become regional parties, as PTI was the only party that had as many as 1,100 candidates to field in elections across Pakistan.
Answering a question, Mr Chaudhry said the PML-N and PPP had opposed a bill that allowed the government to stop advertisement of the media houses that did not duly pay proper salaries to journalists and media workers. He also highlighted the need for mature political debate on broadcast media and chided the media coverage of an altercation between PTI leaders Pervez Khattak and Hammad Azhar.
The information minister said media houses had not increased salaries of working journalists for past several years despite the fact the owners earned 33 to 40 per cent more profit this year. He said instead of raising remuneration of TV anchor persons who had already been getting lion’s share, media houses should enhance salaries of working journalists. He also announced Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees (ITNE) would be made functional with the appointment of its chairman within a month, while broadcast media workers would also be able to take their cases to the tribunal.
He also called for digital media training of journalists working for newspapers, as print media should prepare for digitization. He said it was just a matter of time when the 5G technology would be available. Even at present advertisements worth Rs12bn had already shifted to the digital media, he said.
With regard to Gwadar, the minister said the government had given a historic Rs700bn package. A new mechanism had been created for the city so that all its major issued would be resolved within next six months, he said.
The minister also announced health insurance facility for journalists and said the government scheme was aimed at mitigating the sufferings of the salaried class and low-income families.
On the occasion, he suggested the Sindh government to adopt the PM’s National Health Card programme for effective provision of health facilities to all and sundry, adds APP.
He said the national health card programme would incur half the amount the Sindh government was currently spending on provision of healthcare facilities in the province. A huge sum of fund was spent on the construction of hospital buildings only and salaries, he said. By introducing the national health card, this amount would be spent on medical treatment of the masses in a better way, he added.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Sanaullah said the federal information minister was making up stories to convince the ruling party leaders who were afraid of the sharp decline in PTI’s popularity or were about to quit it that the PTI was strong and “still in deal with the [military] establishment”. He believed that the PTI leadership was also consoling its political allies. He called upon the state institutions to take note of the federal minister’s statements as he was dragging them into politics and tarnishing their repute.
Referring to a national security meeting, the opposition lawmaker said all including ministers were there and said: “Any exchange of pleasantries does not mean that a meeting was held PML-N leaders and establishment.”
Mr Sanaullah asserted that there was no confrontation within the PML-N leadership and dispelled the impression that anyone went and met former premier Nawaz Sharif in London nor he spoke to anyone in the establishment. He said the PML-N did not want any deal but free and fair elections.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2022