Thursday June 20, 2024

KP CM fires his media adviser over corruption charges

By Mushtaq Yusufzai
July 12, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (TI) leadership on Saturday removed Ajmal Wazir as information adviser to Chief Minister after an audio clip surfaced in which Ajmal Wazir and another person, believed to be owner of an advertising agency, were discussing a project and its cost.

Also, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan ordered an immediate "fact-finding inquiry" into the recently surfaced audio-tape of Ajmal Wazir. Soon after Ajmal Wazir's removal, the KP government gave the charge of adviser of information and public relations to Kamran Bangash. Kamran Bangash was already working as special assistant to the chief minister and was holding the portfolio of local government, elections and rural development. He will hold the portfolio of information and public relations as an additional charge, though there are reports that former health minister Shahram Khan Tarakai is likely to be inducted into the provincial cabinet and would be given the portfolio of Local Government, Elections and Rural Development.

He was supposed to be given back the health portfolio but according to senior PTI leaders, Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cousin, Dr Nausherwan Burki wanted Taimur Salim Jhagra to continue as health minister in addition to his earlier portfolio, minister of finance. According to PTI leadership, the audio-tape of Ajmal Wazir had surfaced a few days ago but nobody was willing to officially comment on it as they were aware of the consequences and believed it would damage the party reputation. "It was shared in WhatsApp groups and we listened to it but didn't know what's going on. I believe the motives behind the audio-tape were to trap Ajmal Wazir and blackmail him," said one PTI leader. Pleading anonymity, he appreciated Chief Minister Mahmood Khan for his immediate action by initiating an inquiry to bring the truth to the fore. "Actually, it was the act of the people of the Information Department. Everybody knows what has been going on in the Information Department. It's a known fact that people holding key positions there were taking their share and it seems to be that previously this share used to go to someone else, whom Ajmal Wazir would have removed,” said the party leader.

In the audio-tape, it gives an impression if Ajmal Wazir was allegedly negotiating a deal with the owner of the advertising agency and that he was trying to get his share. This correspondent made attempts to seek comments of Ajmal Wazir but he avoided, and said “sorry, I can’t talk right now.” Kamran Bangash, special assistant to the chief minister on information and public relations, was inaccessible to the journalists and had switched off his cell-phone. Kamran Bangash had earlier in a statement stated that Ajmal Wazir was removed following the release of an audio-tape. “Some things have come to light regarding (Ajmal Wazir) taking commission from an advertising firm,” he told the media. He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been informed about the matter and a forensic investigation would be held. Bangash said he would soon brief the media about the issue.

Meanwhile, a cabinet member in the KP government told The News on condition of anonymity that action against Ajmal Wazir was taken to convey a message to rest of the people that “there is zero tolerance for corruption in the KP government.” “We don’t know if Ajmal Wazir was involved in any type of irregular activities and that’s why he was removed from the cabinet soon after the audio tape surfaced,” he said on condition of anonymity. He said Ajmal Wazir would be given a chance to explain his side of the story. He added that action against Ajmal Wazir was taken under Section 3 of KP Advisers and Special Assistants to the Chief Minister (Amendment) Act, 1989. Ajmal Wazir belongs to the Shakai valley of South Waziristan tribal district but he was raised and educated in Dera Ismail Khan. He was earlier associated with Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and later developed close ties with PTI chairman Imran Khan. He didn’t contest election but was considered one of the few influential people in the KP government. It was apparently due to his personal relations with Imran Khan that earned him a berth in the provincial cabinet. He had replaced Shaukat Yousafzai, an old PTI activist and close aide of Imran Khan.

However, Ajmal Wazir claimed that a conspiracy was hatched against him.

In a statement, he said on Saturday that the conspirators used mean tactics to block his way to serving people. He claimed that a fake audio was prepared with pieces of recordings taken from different meetings and briefings. He said the audio was edited from different points on the tape.

He said some questions was asked from him, and he replied those questions. However, those replies were edited and a fake audio was prepared with different pieces of the tape.