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PESHAWAR/LAHORE: Amid differences between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and his key cabinet members, three provincial ministers were sacked on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday categorically ruled out removal of Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, and warned that nobody could blackmail him at all.
Those removed included Health Minister Shahram Khan Tarakai, Tourism, Sports and Culture Minister Mohammad Atif Khan and Revenue and Estate Minister Shakeel Khan. Shahram Tarakai and Atif Khan are related to each other.
The ministers were sacked for not heeding the cabinet’s decisions and creating difficulties, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai was reported as saying by Geo News.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, Yousafzai added, decided to remove them for their negative behaviour. Sunday’s notification had also said the lawmakers were removed from office with "immediate effect".
The information minister said no one would be allowed to blackmail the ruling PTI or the government. Khan was also a candidate for the KP chief minister post but was given the biggest ministry, as well as, four provincial departments, he added.
Atif Khan never accepted incumbent Mahmood Khan as the chief minister and continued to create difficulties, Yousafzai explained. According to senior leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf (PTI), Prime Minister Imran Khan had personally approved the removal of the three ministers.
There had been differences for quite some time between the chief minister and some of his cabinet members including, Shahram Khan Tarakai and Atif Khan. However, it was stated to be a difficult decision for Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to remove Shahram Tarakai and Atif Khan from the cabinet as both were considered to be close to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Shahram Tarakai and Atif Khan had long association with Imran Khan and were in the good books of the PTI chairman. It was not less than a surprise to many party leaders, including Shahram Tarakai and Atif Khan, that Imran Khan would sack them ignoring their long association with him and PTI. The two ministers and some other party legislators were reportedly critical of Mahmood Khan in indoor meetings for his alleged poor performance and growing corruption in the government that damaged PTI’s image in the public.
According to the party insiders, Shahram Tarakai and Atif Khan before publicly criticising the chief minister had raised the issue with the prime minister and informed him a number of times that corruption was rising in government departments. They said Imran Khan was not happy over the differences between the chief minister and the two senior ministers.
Senior party leaders were expecting Imran Khan to call the two sides to Islamabad and listen to them. “Our assessment was that he will call them and carefully listen to their complaints. We expected he would constitute a committee of senior PTI leaders to resolve the issues between the chief minister and the cabinet members,” said a senior PTI leader in Peshawar.
Pleading anonymity, he said until Friday the prime minister had no intention of taking such a serious action against the cabinet members, but when he called Mahmood Khan to Islamabad upon his return from overseas he changed his mind.
According to PTI leaders, some senior party leaders from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa played a “very negative role in creating doubts in the mind of the prime minister and made him believe that Shahram Tarakai and Atif Khan were in fact creating problems for the government.”
“The prime minister even without listening to the other side of the story removed the ministers from their positions. I am sure he was presented a wrong picture and I know certain people played a very negative role in this crisis,” said a party insider.
Also, sources close to the prime minister in Islamabad told The News that there were rumours in the party that Imran Khan is expected to replace the chief ministers of Punjab and KP in March or April 2020. In KP, it was reportedly discussed that Atif Khan is the favourite choice of Imran Khan to replace Mahmood Khan.
“I don’t know if Imran Khan had any such plan for Atif Khan but some people told the prime minister that Atif Khan and his group was creating problems for the PTI government in KP at the behest of some key powerful quarters. And that could be one of the reasons he removed them from the cabinet without listening to them,” said the PTI leader in Islamabad.
According to sources, Mahmood Khan was initially reluctant to take action against the cabinet members but some other party people opposed to Shahram Tarakai and Atif Khan instigated him and assured him of their support.
“It is no more a secret that things are not satisfactory in KP and the chief minister is not delivering. I am afraid that people who supported him in this critical situation will now blackmail him to make decisions as per their wish,” said a PTI legislator close to the chief minister.
This correspondent spoke to Shahram Tarakai and Atif Khan and both said they didn’t expect the decision. They, however, avoided to react to their removal and said they would respond in time.
“Obviously, we didn’t have any personal interest and our sole aim was to bring relief to the common man in the province. We may or may not react to this decision as we don’t believe in blackmailing or maligning people,” said Shahram Tarakai.
There were media reports that Prime Minister Imran Khan had called the two senior ministers to Islamabad after their removal but Atif Khan denied these reports.
Earlier, sources close to the chief minister told The News that the differences cropped up after Mahmood Khan refused to accommodate in the cabinet some party MPAs recommended to him by the cabinet members.
“There would have been no issue had the chief minister adjusted their nominees in the cabinet. The chief minister used to hold them in high esteem as he knew about their connections with Imran Khan and status in the party,” said a PTI office-bearer close to the chief minister.
Also, the sources said that Mahmood Khan was already under pressure from National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Federal Minister Ali Amin Gandapur who wanted him to adjust their younger brothers in the cabinet, which he refused.
Mahmood Khan’s opponents had also alleged that he had no role in the governance and was letting non-elected people make important decisions.
They particularly mentioned names of two senior bureaucrats, one sitting in Islamabad and close to the prime minister, and another close to the chief minister in Peshawar for allegedly making all important decisions of KP government.
In Lahore, the prime minister firmly supported Punjab CM Usman Buzdar while speaking to parliamentarians, ministers and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Punjab office-bearers at 8-Club Road here.
The PM said he would not succumb to any pressure and made it clear that Usman Buzdar was the chief executive in Punjab and the bureaucracy was under his command.
Punjab CM Usman Buzdar, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and senior leaders of the PTI Punjab as well as senior officials of central and Punjab governments were also present.
The PM met MNAs and MPAs from Punjab in two different sessions in which most of his party members slammed the Punjab bureaucracy over lack of cooperation with them. An MPA from Rawalpindi lodged complaint about the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) concerned for not paying attention to the genuine grievances of people. He said the police official did not even bother to pick phone calls of the MPAs.
The PM took notice of the situation and directed the officials concerned to address the complaint. Similarly, some of the MPAs also lodged complaints that bureaucrats were obliging one another and favouring their relatives but their dealing with the elected team of Punjab was totally different. They complained that their development projects were not being implemented.
Some of the members also urged the prime minister to empower his chief minister. At this, according to sources, the PM categorically stated that Buzdar was the chief executive of the province.
He directed the Punjab government to address all just grievances of the MNAs, MPAs and at the same time, he stated that no tolerance would be shown towards unlawful and corrupt practices. The PM also directed his political and official teams not to promote nepotism even if anyone was PM’s relative. He also asked his team to pay attention to development of their areas, which could not be ignored at all.
The PM also called for evolving an effective mechanism, aimed at solving problems of people and creating a good coordination between bureaucracy and the elected representatives.
Imran Khan made it clear that he had never succumbed to any pressure in the past nor would he do so in future. He said he had passed through a testing phase and now things were moving in the right direction and urged his stalwarts to avoid infighting and continue to move ahead with a positive intent.
Imran Khan also took his team into confidence over his recent visit to Davos and stated that now Pakistan was being envisaged as a safe country from investment point of view and situation was improving for the country. He said the foreign companies had shown interest in investing in Pakistan.
The PM said he knew who was a conspirator, and from where he was hatching plans against Punjab chief minister, according to Geo News.
The prime minister said he knew who was creating a controversy to oust Buzdar and that the conspirator wanted the post for himself.
“If the incumbent CM was removed, the new one, too, would be forced to step down in a similar manner,” the prime minister warned. A new chief minister, if appointed, would not even last 20 days, he added.
The premier said there was negative propaganda that Buzdar did not have the required authority; however, the chief secretary and inspector-general (IG) of Punjab were new and would work as part of the CM's team, he added. The premier told the meeting participants that CM Buzdar had complete authority.
PM Imran also tasked the Punjab government to quickly hold municipal elections at a village-council level, emphasising that lower-level
Arshad Aziz Malik adds: This correspondent had reported in Jang and The News that differences between KP CM Mahmood Khan and some of his cabinet members had deepened and that PM Imran had also taken notice of the friction.
Senior PTI leaders had told the publication on Thursday that certain people in the party also took notice of the differences and decided to constitute a jirga to resolve the issue before it damages the government and the party.
Meanwhile, expressing satisfaction over the performance of Jam Kamal Khan,Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on Sunday said that he will remain the chief minister of Balochistan, reported a private news channel.
Talking to journalists along with Balochistan Assembly Speaker Abdul Quddus Bazanjo and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak in Islamabad, Sadiq Sanjrani said that Jam Kamal is ensuring good governance in the province and he will continue his services as chief minister of the province.
The Senate chairman underscored the need for dialogues to resolve issues. On the occasion, the Balochistan Assembly speaker thanked the leadership for hearing grievances and said that strengthening Balochistan will further strengthen Pakistan.
Pervez Khattak, in his remarks, said the committee constituted by the prime minister is in contact with other parties of the province. It is pertinent to mention here that Bizenjo had submitted a privilege motion against Balochistan CM on January 24. He was of the view that the CM’s remarks about him were unnecessary and non-parliamentary.
Earlier on January 23, Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal had said that he was not giving much attention to the remarks of the Speaker Balochistan Assembly Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and had said that the coalition government in the province had performed after coming into power.
He had said that the government should only be judged by the works it had carried out rather than hurling blames at each other. “It would not matter if I say that the Center or a province is not performing to my expectations,” he had said.