ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party has decided to ‘vigorously’ counter allegations levelled by former minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and accelerate work on development schemes through its lawmakers as the Pakistan Muslim League-N and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf mounted pressure on the government for early elections.
According to sources, a plan to counter Mr Qureshi’s move was chalked out at a PPP meeting presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday night.
President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the meeting had reposed full confidence in the leadership of President Zardari, who is co-chairman of the PPP, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and reiterated support for the policy of reconciliation.
According to the sources, one participant suggested to President Zardari to give an important role in Punjab politics to sidelined senior leader Aitzaz Ahsan.
On Tuesday, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan and PPP information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira, along with Textiles Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, addressed press conferences and lashed out at Mr Qureshi over allegations levelled by him.
All of them asserted that Mr Qureshi had resigned because he had been removed from the office of foreign minister and not for the sake of any principle.
Mr Qureshi has been saying that he was removed from the cabinet because of his insistence that US national Raymond Davis who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore was not entitled to diplomatic immunity.
The information minister said the government did not face any threat and would complete its tenure.
“Mr Qureshi remained in the government for three years but he was annoyed when his portfolio was changed in a cabinet reshuffle,” she claimed.
The party leadership, she said, had been aware of the designs of Mr Qureshi but it did not expel him from the PPP. “We gave him time and avoided taking action against him tom let party workers see his real face.”
The minister termed Mr Qureshi a “political nomad” who kept changing parties.
Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Mr Kaira said Mr Qureshi was pursuing politics of personal interests and not of principles.
They said difference of opinion was the right of every individual but “we should not forget that it is the party which has given us an identity”.
They also said that Mr Qureshi would not have left the PPP had he been given the ministry of foreign affairs.
Replying to a question, Mr Kaira said the PPP welcomed political activities by Tehrik-i-Insaaf and the government did not feel threatened by rallies and public meetings.
Makhdoom Shahabuddin, who is the chief of PPP for south Punjab, said he had been asked to reorganise the party and Mr Qureshi’s resignation would not affect it in the region.
Meanwhile, sources in the National Assembly secretariat said Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza had received the handwritten resignation of Mr Qureshi as an MNA and his seat from Multan was expected to be declared vacant in a couple of days.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Qureshi said he had complained in his resignation that he was not provided the opportunity to speak and ‘present the record’ before the house. Having been denied the opportunity, he was left with no choice but to go to the media and present his charge-sheet, he said.
The former minister said he had also sent his resignation from party membership to the secretary general.
With Mr Qureshi raising the demand for snap elections, PPP leaders have decided to provide every possible help to the party’s legislators to implement development schemes in their constituencies.
All party members holding executive positions are reported to have been instructed to facilitate PPP legislators in helping their constituents.
The sources said President Zardari had asked the prime minister, chief ministers and federal and provincial cabinet members to increase their interaction with party lawmakers and workers and address their concerns.
The sources said the recent party meeting laid stress on maximum utilisation of development funds at the disposal of the prime minister and chief ministers.
They said the PTI factor was also being looked into in the discussions and office-bearers at all levels had been told to closely watch new developments.
According to a handout, Prime Minister Gilani met a number of parliamentarians on Tuesday.
It said the prime minister would embark on a ‘Karwan-i-Tameer’ from Karachi to Khyber to inaugurate important development projects completed by the government. Senator Syeda Sughra Hussain Imam and Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Dr Farooq Sattar called on him and apprised him of development projects in their constituencies.
Prime Minister Gilani called for expediting the preparatory work on the circular railway project and completion of Lyari expressway in Karachi.
MNA Noor Alam Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa informed him that a Rs1.2 billion gas supply project in Peshawar was progressing well.
The prime minister said he would meet the elected representatives and party leaders during his visit to the provincial capital on Nov 19.
MNA Syed Akhondzada Chittan from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas thanked the prime minister for amending the Frontier Crimes Regulations.
The prime minister said he would like to inaugurate projects in Bajaur. He announced that the information technology campus of a university and
IT labs in five union councils would be set up in the area.
Talking to Senator Mir Amer Ali Khan Magsi, he said the Shahdadkot road should be completed as a priority project. The senator thanked the prime minister for providing funds for electrification, gas supply and rehabilitation schemes in flood- affected areas.