With political polarisation at an all-time high, holding elections in the Punjab will be challenging for the caretaker government
he Punjab caretaker chief minister, Mohsin Naqvi, has remained under fire from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) since his name was proposed by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). The PTI has been trying since then to keep the caretaker government under pressure. The recent attempt by the police to arrest the PTI chairman from his Zaman Park residence might as well have helped the party push its narrative regarding the caretaker Punjab government. The scenes following the police action have stirred a storm on social media.
The controversy regarding the caretaker setup in the Punjab had started soon after the PTI and the PDM proposed names for an interim chief minister and failed to reach a consensus. The matter was sent to the Election Commission of Pakistan, which, with a majority vote, nominated Mohsin Naqvi as the caretaker CM. Former federal minister Moonis Elahi then initiated a verbal war with Mohsin Naqvi soon after his name was proposed.
PTI stalwarts Fawad Chaudhry and Shafqat Mehmood, and former chief minister Parvez Elahi slammed the ECP for Naqvi’s appointment. They announced their intention to challenge the appointment in a court and launch a protest on the streets. In his media talks and speeches, Imran Khan alleged that Mohsin Naqvi’s appointment was meant to facilitate massive rigging in the elections. The PTI leaders kept criticising each and every step taken by the caretaker government. When courts in Islamabad issued arrest warrants against Khan, the Islamabad police arrived in Lahore to arrest him and for that, sought the assistance of the Punjab Police. During the first operation to arrest Imran Khan, a PTI activist Ali Bilal alias Zille Shah lost his life. The PTI has alleged that he was arrested and tortured by the police, leading to his death. The PTI has filed an application with the police to register a murder case against Mohsin Naqvi. The police, however, have said that the deceased was hit by a vehicle, owned by a PTI leader. They claim to have traced him through safe city cameras. Five people arrested in this connection are on remand now.
The PTI workers also foiled the second attempt to arrest Khan. Khan has alleged that the caretaker government is following orders from PML-N chief organiser Maryam Nawaz and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.
Setting aside PTI’s objections, the composition of the caretaker setup with a chief minister and nine ministers indicates that it just as well may have the representation of the major political stakeholders.
Mohsin Naqvi, a media house owner, had set the trend for city news channels in Pakistan. His wife is a niece of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi’s. It has been alleged in the past that it was due to this familial connection that he and his media house supported Parvez Elahi and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) in the past. However, Naqvi is also close to former president Asif Zardari. Some people in PPP circles go as far as saying that that Zardari has two sons: Bilawal Bhutto and Mohsin Naqvi.
The caretaker information minister, Amir Mir, is a journalist. He also runs a website, Googly News TV, which is often critical of the establishment. Mir is the younger brother of TV host Hamid Mir and PPP leader Faisal Mir. Mir was picked up by the Federal Investigation Agency during the PTI rule for criticising the establishment and Imran Khan. He has authored several books about militant groups including The True Face of Jihadis and Fluttering Flags of Jihadis.
The minister for specialised health care, Dr Javed Akram, is a former vice chancellor of the University of Health Sciences. He is the brother of PML-N stalwart (late) Pervaiz Malik and of (late) Malik Qayyum, a former judge of the Lahore High Court and a former attorney general. His nephew Ali Pervaiz Malik and sister-in-law Shaista Pervaiz Malik are members of the National Assembly from the PML-N. His sister Yasmeen Rahman, is the mother-in-law of former chief justice Saqib Nisar’s daughter. She has served as a PPP MNA for two terms. His brother-in-law, Mian Misbahur Rehman has served as the PPP’s Lahore president for almost a decade.
The caretaker Industries minister, SM Tanveer, a business tycoon, is the chairman of Din group. He has also served as chairman of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association. He has a political tilt towards the PML-N.
Minister for Local Government and Community Development Ibrahim Hassan Murad owns the University of Management and Technology (UMT), one of the largest private education institutions. He also runs the ILM Trust. His father Hassan Murad was a key member of Jamaat-i-Islami and his grandfather Khurram Murad a key JI leader during the 1960s and 1970s. Khurram Murad’s name came into spotlight in the wake of the fall of Dhaka and was associated with the Al-Shams and Al-Badr, the JI’s wings that were active in then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Ibrahim is said to have pro-PTI political views.
Minister for Excise and Taxation Bilal Afzal is an educationist. He has served the Punjab Group of Colleges as its executive director. In the past, he is said to have had political views inclining towards the JI and the PTI.
Minister for Primary and Secondary Health Dr Jamal Nasir is a former bureaucrat, who has served in government’s health sector organisations in various capacities. He was considered a trusted aide of Shahbaz Sharif when he was chief minister.
Mansoor Qadir, the minister for education, is also a former bureaucrat, who has served in various capacities in the Punjab. He has also served as a member of the Board of Revenue. His last posting was as the divisional commissioner for Gujranwala.
The Auqaf minister, Syed Azfar Ali Nasir, is a lawyer by profession and son-in-law of Karachi-based businessman Zubair Tufail, chairman of the Tufail Chemical Industries. He has pro-PPP political views.
The recently inducted advisor for electoral laws and parliamentary affairs, Kunwar Dilshad is also a former bureaucrat. He has served as secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan. He frequently appears on TV as an expert on election commission and election laws.
The caretaker set up has already been made controversial by the PTI. If the party sweeps the polls in the Punjab, it will credit Khan’s increasing popularity for it. If it PTI fails to achieve the desired results, allegations of rigging against Mohsin Naqvi and his team would be a major component of the PTI narrative.
The writer is a senior journalist, teacher of journalism, writer and analyst. He tweets at BukhariMubasher