Saturday May 18, 2024

Over half of 181 PTI MPAs adjusted in official positions

By Tariq Butt
June 03, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has extraordinarily swollen its bevy of top position holders, including cabinet ministers and spokesmen to defend the Punjab government in the face of impending intensification of onslaught of the opposition parties.

Their number has now grown to 111 that also include some 20 unelected party leaders. The focus of the entire effort is Punjab because of its political importance and weightage in the national politics, and the likely epicentre of the opposition’s protest.

The existing heavy battalion of senior position holders--ministers, advisers, special assistants and parliamentary secretaries--in Punjab stood further enlarged with the induction of 40 spokespersons and four coordinators.

“It was, in fact, my idea to have a large number of spokesmen for different portfolios in Punjab, and I did induct nearly a dozen such people and had planned to have many more,” former Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan told The News when contacted.He figures among the newly appointed spokesmen, who have been notified by Information Minister Sumsam Shah Bokhari.

After his ouster from, the cabinet, a few months back because of the faux pas caused by his remarks about the Hindu community, it was speculated especially following his meeting with the prime minister that Chohan is being accorded a significant cabinet portfolio once again but it did not materialise.This is the first time that he has been given an official assignment as one of the spokespersons.

However, he is holding his horses and is still to activate himself in his traditional top gear. “This or any other official title doesn’t matter for me; I have been standing for and defending, the PTI stoutly for over a decade,” Chohan said. However, he appeared to be demoralised and wanted the PTI to offer a strong defence to the harangue against Prime Minister Imran Khan in TV talks shows.

The notification, appointing spokesmen and coordinators, signed by Bokhari, said it has been issued consequent upon directions of the prime minister and subsequent approval of the Punjab chief minister and in supersession of all previous notifications on the matter. It said they will represent the PTI point of view in the media and added that the spokespersons are entrusted with the image building of the government and projection of its policies and will defend official stance as per PTI slogan--Naya Pakistan.

The word “supersession” showed that the notification issued by Chohan and another order relating to nomination of Shahbaz Gill as the spokesman were cancelled. Gill was re-notified as the spokesperson. The information minister was contacted by The News for comments, and he responded in a message that he was in currently in Saudi Arabia.

A total of 14 Punjab ministers are also included among the just appointed 40 spokesmen and that is a kind of overlapping because these cabinet members are already closely looking after their portfolios. They will be “double-jobbers”. Adviser Dr Salman Shah, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Usman Dar, Farrukh Habib, member of the National Assembly from Faisalabad, and Punjab PTI leaders Ijaz Chaudhry and Umar Sarfraz Cheema have also been designated as the spokespersons apart from nine members of the Punjab Assembly and 11 unelected PTI cardholders. There are four coordinators, who are also unelected party loyalists.

Already, Punjab has 35 ministers, four advisers, five special assistants and 38 parliamentary secretaries. Of its 181 provincial lawmakers, the PTI has so far adjusted more than 90 of them in different official positions by giving them official titles that carry clout and influence. Chohan said that the PTI needed to beef up its team because of the onslaught that is about to come from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) particularly its Vice President Maryam Nawaz. “We have to respond to the impending attack appropriately.”

As the political atmosphere is heating up and is likely to go up further after Eidul Fitr as clearly stated by principal opposition parties, including the PML-N, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamiate Ulemae Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Awami National Party and other anti-ruling coalition forces, the government reinforced its team of spokesmen specifically in Punjab beforehand to react to the tirade.

Coupled with the opposition’s likely protest to agitate different issues, the lawyers’ community is also up in arms against the filing of a reference in the Supreme Judicial Council by President Dr Arif Alvi against the Supreme Court Judge, Justice Qazi Faez Isa. All the top representative bodies of lawyers have threatened to launch a protest movement if the reference was not taken back.

Originally, as the information minister Chohan had constituted a 12-member committee to defend the PTI while playing on the front foot. Soon after his removal from the cabinet, he went silent. He has been avoiding attending official meetings held before the issuance of the present notification.