KARACHI: The farewell meeting of the outgoing caretaker cabinet took an ugly turn on Monday when Chief Minister retired Justice Maqbool Baqar and Health Minister Dr Saad Khalid Niaz exchanged words and reportedly accused each other of going beyond the defined mandate of the caretakers.

However, a statement issued by the CM House did not mention any untoward incident during the sitting and suggested that all went well in the farewell meeting.

But soon after the meeting, social media platforms were abuzz with reports of a scuffle between the caretaker CM and health minister during the meeting of the provincial cabinet.

In a bid to present his side of story, the health minister called reporters to his office and shared with them what had really happened in the cabinet meeting.

“During the meeting, I told the cabinet that the health department couldn’t work as per requirement during caretaker administration,” Dr Niaz said.

Dr Saad accuses caretaker CM of threatening him; spokesperson says chief minister did not want any confrontation on last day

“Hearing this, the chief minister became angry at me. He turned louder and even used bad words for my father. I told him that it’s not appropriate. He threatened me in front of other cabinet ministers. I possess right to move court against him for threatening me,” he added.

The health minister claimed that he ‘tried his best’ to work properly with all due honesty but was never allowed to do so.

When contacted, a spokesperson for the caretaker CM told Dawn that when the health minister started talking about his problems Justice Baqar told him that it was not appropriate to raise such issues especially on the last day of the caretaker cabinet.

History of differences

However, the news of a bitter exchange of words between the two did not come as a surprise for many people.

Since the very beginning of the caretaker set-up, differences had cropped up between Justice Baqar and Dr Niaz over several issues.

First, the health minister had opposed procurement of robots for surgery for government hospitals and issued instructions for the cancellation of a multibillion-rupee tender. However, the CM threw his weight behind the procurement and this created a serious rift between them. The health minister accused the CM of ‘interference’ in his department and had also boycotted a meeting held at the CM House to review the performance of his department.

Later, another issue surfaced when Dr Niaz had written a letter to the chief secretary asking him to take immediate action against the secretary of the health department because he had approved a summary on the orders of the CM House regarding a Rs2.27 billion annual financial grant to an NGO without consulting him.

Baqar lauds efforts of his cabinet members

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the CM House said that the caretaker chief minister chaired the farewell cabinet and expressed best wishes for the incoming provincial government.

He also lauded the efforts of his cabinet members for trying their level best during the interim period. The chief minister and cabinet members, the statement said, also attended lunch with senior officials and the staff of CM House.

“I am very proud that you all made efforts with sincerity and dedication,” the statement quoted the CM as saying. “Thanks to Allah Almighty that elections were held and the new government is about to take charge. We pray for the new government to perform for the people and wish it all the best.”

The CM, while approving the minutes of the cabinet meeting, appointed retired Justice Nazar Akbar as the chairman of the Commission for the Protection of Journalist and other Media Practitioners.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2024

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