ISLAMABAD: With reports of 16 Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) ministers quitting the federal cabinet on Monday, the Presidency and Prime Minister House were on a red alert and immediately contacted Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to defuse the situation.
According to sources, during a meeting of the PML-Q ministers at the State Guest House in Lahore, to which Chaudhry Shujaat especially summoned Adviser to PM on Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain, the PML-Q ministers opened a Pandora’s box of complaints against the senior coalition partner, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
It was for the first time that all PML-Q ministers openly expressed their reservations over the policies of the federal government and even pressurised their leadership to review the coalition with the PPP. Sources said the PML-Q ministers complained about the lack of development works in their constituencies despite their party being a major coalition partner, non-cooperation of federal government departments and loadshedding, which was bringingthem into disrepute in their constituencies. They opined that the PPP ministers did not accept the PML-Q as their coalition partner with an open heart and they did not cooperate with them.
Sources said one of the PML-Q ministers opined that they were more comfortable while in the opposition. “We always lend our support to the PPP but its ministers never cooperate with us,” sources quoted the PML-Q minister as saying.
Sources said the PML-Q minister pointed out that their party members in Sindh were getting Rs80 million for development projects while Shahbaz Sharif approved Rs180 million development schemes of his party legislators in the Punjab. But the PML-Q legislators, sources said, were not getting even a single penny for development projects in the Punjab. “Verbal commitments of providing development packages for our constituencies for the last one year are being made but enough is enough,” sources said, quoting PML-Q ministers complaining to their leadership.
Sources said the PML-Q ministers asked their leadership to convey to the PPP leadership that this kind of coalition was not acceptable to them. Sources said Chaudhry Shujaat and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi cooled down the sentiments of their party ministers and assured them that they would convey their reservations to President Asif Ali Zardari soon.
Online adds: A private TV channel reported that at least 16 PML-Q ministers had submitted their resignations to Chaudhry Shujaat in protest against loadshedding. It said the ministers stated in their resignations that it was not possible for them to face the masses because of the loadshedding. They submitted their resignations to the party president during the meeting at the State Guest House meeting in Lahore. The report said the ministers who submitted their resignations include Anwar Cheema and Akram Gill.
Mumtaz Alvi adds: The government had to face embarrassment on Monday when ANP senators staged a walkout from the Senate over the massive power outages and absence of ministers while a senior MQM legislator questioned the logic of making Raja Pervaiz Ashraf the country’s prime minister when, as minister for water and power, he had failed to resolve the electricity crisis.
An MQM legislator accused the government of extorting ‘bhatha’ from the public in the name of fuel adjustment charges, having no political will to address such basic issues as electricity shortage and law and order. “We are talking of winning elections from the four provinces, but I say if we fail to end loadshedding, people will not allow us to even participate in the polls,” he said.
There were calls for early elections from the opposition lawmakers, who alleged that a set-up that could not resolve the issues of power outages, poverty and law and order in four-and-a-half years was unlikely to perform miracles in the next few months.
PML-N legislator Syed Zafar Ali Shah asked the rulers to immediately announce elections and said whatever shred of credibility the government had was in tatters after its own three coalition partners expressed no confidence in it. “One of the PPP’s allies is outside the House, the other is crying on the floor of the House while the third is also unhappy,” he remarked.
Minister for Water and Power Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar also came under severe attack, particularly from the treasury benches, for his non-availability for the proceedings. Senators also agitated over the absence of the concerned ministry’s officials despite related items listed on the day’s agenda. ANP’s Haji Muhammad Adeel asked the minister to resign if he was unable to do his job.
As the House resumed proceedings 30 minutes behind schedule after a break of two days, some treasury and opposition senators had conflicting views on holding the session in the month of Ramazan. Some objected to holding the afternoon sessions, asking for proceedings in the morning.
ANP’s Senator Muhammad Zahid Khan, on a point of order, drew the attention of the House towards 18-19-hour-long loadshedding in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and elsewhere and flayed the ministers for staying away from the Senate. “Should we attend the session for TA/DA? We are supposed to discuss people’s problems here and seek their solution and if they (ministers) don’t come here then there is no justification in being part of the proceedings,” he retorted and then led his party senators out of the House.
On MQM parliamentary party leader Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi’s request, Senate Chairman Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari allowed discussion on the situation arising out of loadshedding.
In his emotional speech, the MQM senator fully justified the public agitation against the power outages and praised them for their restraint, recalling how once a 30-minute loadshedding in New York had trigged a wave of crimes, including arson and ransacking of shopping centres. He questioned the rulers’ claim of having no funds to resolve the issue of circular debt, saying they had shown no sign of austerity in their lifestyle and knew two easy ‘tricks’ of making money: printing new notes and resorting to monthly hike in power tariff.
The senator asked the government to immediately release all those who were detained for agitation over power outages. “The agitators must be freed and the government must apologise to them for causing them trouble and its failure to ensure smooth power supply,” he asserted.
Senator Mashhadi wondered who would give them funds for circular debt retirement in view of Rs8 billion daily corruption, as announced by the National Accountability Bureau chairman. Leader of the Opposition Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar of the PML-N said the issue of power outages was a serious one but the government was not serious in resolving it. Senators Muhammad Hamza and Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo said holding of fresh election was the only way to pull the country out of the present morass.
Bizenjo said the rulers should concede that Pakistan was facing the question of survival, as its main institutions, which connected the people of the four provinces, such as PIA, Pakistan Railways and Wapda, were collapsing and there appeared to be no sign of any improvement. The House will now resume business today (Tuesday) at 10:30am.