AJK PM faces criticism over governance

Published October 2, 2023
PML-N regional secretary general Chaudhry Tariq Farooq speaks at a large gathering of party workers held in Muzaffarabad on Sunday to review preparations for return of Nawaz Sharif. — Photo by author
PML-N regional secretary general Chaudhry Tariq Farooq speaks at a large gathering of party workers held in Muzaffarabad on Sunday to review preparations for return of Nawaz Sharif. — Photo by author

MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Chaudhry Anwarul Haq on Sunday came under veiled and blatant criticism by the leaders of his coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for his governance and handling of the ongoing protests on power tariffs and other issues of common concern.

The outpouring of anger and disapproval came at a consultative meeting of PML-N workers, held in the municipal corporation hall in connection with preparations for the return of the party’s supreme leader, Nawaz Sharif.

PML-N regional president Shah Ghulam Qadir, former prime minister Raja Farooq Haider, former senior minister and party’s regional secretary general Chaudhry Tariq Farooq, former ministers Noreen Arif, Barrister Syed Iftikhar Gillani, Dr Mustafa Bashir Abbasi, Syed Murtaza Gillani, Muzaffarabad Mayor Sikandar Nisar Gillani and several others spoke on the occasion.

Most of the speakers maintained that PML-N’s decision to become part of the coalition government had turned out to be counterproductive for it and should be reviewed without further ado.

They also criticised the way Mr Haq-led administration had been dealing with the ongoing protests against sky-high power tariffs and other area-specific issues.

In his speech at the conclusion of the meeting, Mr Qadir regretted that what had happened in Azad Kashmir on Saturday should not have happened.

“I am of the belief that use of force against the protesters should be avoided because in Azad Kashmir intimidation and coercion has neither helped address a problem in the past nor will it help in the future,” he said.

He advised the prime minister to adopt the course of negotiations and provide relief to the masses to restore order in the state.

He maintained that so far neither the people nor any political party was satisfied with the way the government was functioning.

The PML-N regional president also made it clear that no attempt to “pit [AJK] people against each other” would be tolerated under any circumstances.

“I want to tell the prime minister that protests were held during the previous [PML-N] government as well but we kept the people satisfied. Conversations at intersections will not help address the problems. The government should immediately convene a session of the Legislative Assembly,” he stressed.

Mr Qadir also suggested to the prime minister to form a negotiation team comprising all political parties and give up the belief that he could suppress the issue by the use of force.

Referring to the demand of some party leaders, he said inclusion in the coalition government was the decision of the party’s central leadership and any otherwise decision would be taken only on their advice and approval.

He asserted that he was of the view that PML-N should vote for the new leader of the house and sit on the treasury benches but avoid accepting ministerial slots.

“But I assure you that we will place your apprehensions and grievances before the leadership for a final decision by Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on his return home.”

Earlier, Mr Haider warned the government that if any attempt was made to unleash external troops on protestors in Rawalakot or at any other place, its consequences would be dreadful.

Recalling a similar attempt in the fifties, he maintained that it would create distrust among the Kashmiris towards Pakistan.

“I want to tell those who are at helm to demonstrate responsibility.”

Mr Haider’s assertion was later also endorsed by PML-N regional president Qadir in his speech.

He also took strong exception to a recent notification reportedly stating that the disbursement of development funds to the contractors would be made on the recommendation of MLAs concerned.

“An Assembly member may be hostile or extraordinarily kind towards a contractor and therefore there is no point in assigning him such a responsibility,” he said.

“It’s an attempt by the prime minister to please the lawmakers to save his chair. But does he have any idea what could be its outcome?”

Regretting that political parties were being weakened, the former AJK premier also picked holes in the people’s action committees, saying they had kept the political parties at bay.

On withdrawal from the coalition, Mr Haider maintained that joining the government was a mistake and now the workers should suggest its atonement.

Earlier, in his hard-hitting speech PML-N secretary general Chaudhry Tariq Farooq alleged that the “current AJK prime minister and his facilitators were conspiring against the interests of Pakistan.”

He urged the PML-N leadership to listen to the voices of the party workers from across the state.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023

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