Nascent coalition govt comes under fire from within

Published June 28, 2022
JUI-F leader Asad Mehmood and MNA Mohsin Dawar at the National Assembly on Monday. — Photo courtesy: NA/Instagram
JUI-F leader Asad Mehmood and MNA Mohsin Dawar at the National Assembly on Monday. — Photo courtesy: NA/Instagram

• JUI-F flays govt over challenge to Riba verdict; MQM claims PPP, PML-N not meeting ‘commitments’
• Gwadar MNA accuses Ahsan Iqbal of leaving his area out of PSDP
• 83 demands for grants worth Rs4.57tr approved

ISLAMABAD: Cracks in the 11-week-old ruling alliance became all too visible on Monday when, one after the other, nearly all coalition partners made angry outbursts in the National Assembly over the “change of attitude” of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), accusing it of backtracking from the commitments it made ahead of the no-confidence vote against former prime minister Imran Khan.

The most aggressive stance was taken by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), which was one of the main components of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance and a key partner of the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on the opposition benches during the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) regime.

Federal Minister for Communications Asad Mehmood, who hails from JUI-F, protested the government’s decision to file appeal before the Supreme Court a Federal Shariat Court (FSC) decision in the Riba case.

Complaining that the government had made the decision without consulting his party, the JUI-F leader hinted that his party could even go to the extent of quitting the ruling alliance if the PML-N did not come out with a clarification.

The government and the ministry concerned should make it clear if the banks had gone to court under their directives, he asked, adding: “If they have done it on their own, then who has given them the authority to go into the appeal against such decisions and on what grounds? No government minister can make decisions alone. You cannot file an appeal without consulting us,” declared Mr Mehmood, who is the son of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

He was speaking on a point of order while the assembly was approving demands for grants for various ministries and divisions in connection with the federal budget 2022-23.

“If today any ministry wants to take a solo flight then it should think and decide about its future. We have decided about our future. We will spend our lives in accordance with Islam… and we distance ourselves from such decisions,” he said.

Indirectly threatening to agitate against this move, Mr Mehmood asked the government to withdraw the appeal in the SC and make a categorical announcement in this regard.

Another attack on the government was launched from within the alliance by independent MNA from Gwadar, Aslam Bhootani who lodged a strong protest against Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal for not including development schemes in his constituency in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), despite repeated requests by PPP’s Asif Zardari, and even Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“Then, I requested those [quarters] from where we normally receive telephone calls – if their calls still had any weight – to ask Ahsan Iqbal, and then he reflected my scheme [in the PSDP],” said Mr Bhootani without elaborating about the telephone calls. He then regretted that the allocated amount would also be released in installments.

Interestingly, Mr Bhootani praised the previous PTI government, stating that it had released billions of rupees and got 100 per cent allocated amount, which was cut by Mr Iqbal. He said he was happy in the PTI government, but joined the present coalition for the sake of Mr Zardari, who had arranged the support of 58 members for the present government.

Khalid Magsi of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) also expressed similar feelings, saying that it seemed that those who were desperate to obtain their support at the time of the no confidence vote, “did not like our faces now”.

Then, Osama Qadri of the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) took the floor and alleged that the PML-N and the PPP were not implementing the agreements that had been signed with the party at the time of the formation of the government.

Read more: Shehbaz gathers allies to ‘repair cracks’

North Waziristan MNA Mohsin Dawar also protested the failure of the authorities to produce Ali Wazir in the assembly, despite the issuance of his production orders.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, however, defended the PML-N and said that the grievances of the allies from Balochistan were genuine and said the government would make every effort to remove the sense of deprivation among the Balochistan people.

Earlier, at the outset, lawmakers condemned the remarks of Canadian parliamentarian Tom Kmiec, who belongs to the Conservative Party, where he had reportedly talked about the regime change in Pakistan and the alleged role of the military in this process.

The lawmakers said the remarks were tantamount to “interference” in Pakistan’s affairs and asked the Canadian government to take notice of the matter.

The issue was raised by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif who alleged that the MP had issued the statement at the behest of some Pakistani expats and the PTI lobbyists, stating that former prime minister Imran Khan was involved in “an anti-state campaign outside the country.”

He also highlighted some human rights violations in Canada, saying that Muslims from 2017 to 2022 were targeted and killed in various incidents related to Islamophobia.

Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation Shazia Marri also condemned the statement and said the regime in Pakistan was changed democratically and as per the constitution.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly approved 83 demands for grants of 30 ministries and divisions worth Rs4.57 trillion with a majority vote.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2022

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