Since it came to power in 2018, the PTI government has undergone an almost constant series of upheavals and crises of various kinds – within the party. These have ranged from accusations that...
Since it came to power in 2018, the PTI government has undergone an almost constant series of upheavals and crises of various kinds – within the party. These have ranged from accusations that senior members of the party with close links to the PM have been involved in major scandals to other kinds of confusion concerning the day-to-day governmental affairs. We now have the latest upheaval. Two special assistants to the prime minister – SAPMs – Tania Aidrus and Dr Zafar Mirza have suddenly stepped down from their posts, leaving behind only short messages concerning their reasons for doing so. This comes soon after the prime minister followed demands that the assets, tax returns and nationality of the large number of SAPMs that play a prominent role in his government be made public. In her brief resignation letter Tania Aidrus, who is also a Canadian national, has said she is and always will be a loyal Pakistani. The rumours that are inevitably swirling around Islamabad say that the real problem arose after Aidrus, who was in charge of Digital Pakistan, set up a firm of her own which she said was funded by money from overseas Pakistanis. To many observers, this was a quite obvious conflict of interest. There have also been questions over whether Aidrus had obtained the PM's approval to set up her organization.
The case of Dr Zafar Mirza who holds Pakistani nationality is different. He has said in his tweet that he chose to resign because he had left a senior position within the WHO to serve Pakistan and tried to do so to the best of his abilities helping bring Covid-19 under control and was saddened by the fierce criticism directed against SAPMs. Other sources in Islamabad say Dr Mirza had come under scrutiny initially for bringing in drugs from India, violating a ban and later when questioned about the recent increase in the prices of essential medicines saying that he had no idea about this. Political observers and senior journalists have also said that both the SAPMs were asked to step down – and that this was not entirely their own choice.
There is conjecture that more resignations and more internal party turmoil may follow. This would not be good for a government that has already developed a reputation for mismanagement and mishandling of affairs. It is also unusual for a government to be run with so many unelected members in key positions. The absence of a health minister, a ministry held by the PM himself during the Covid-19 pandemic, is also unusual. This is also why there have been serious concerns over the timing of Dr Mirza's resignation, and how the Covid-19 challenge will fare. It is difficult to predict where things will go from now and if the PTI can smoothen out the waters its ship sails on.