PPP ministers share ‘fears’ with PM


The mishandling of the local government system in Sindh and the Awami National Party (ANP)’s demand to rename Peshawar International Airport after Bacha Khan triggered two controversies during the federal cabinet meeting on Wednesday, as the PPP ministers strongly criticised the government’s inconsistent position on the administrative issue in Sindh while PML-Q ministers objected to the ANP’s demands, saying no important national place or building could be named after someone who was opposed to the very creation of Pakistan.
A source told Pakistan Today that the cabinet members got into an argument over the renaming of Peshawar airport after Bacha Khan, as some PML-Q ministers from Punjab felt renaming the airport after Bacha Khan, who they said had opposed the freedom movement for Pakistan, was not right. Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said Bacha Khan was a hero to the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the provincial government could rename the airport on its own.
In order to avoid further heated debate, the PM shrewdly sidestepped the matter and said it was a provincial subject. Almost all the ministers from rural Sindh expressed strong reservations with the way some PPP leaders had handled the issue of local government systems in Sindh. “Law Minister Maula Bakhsh Chandio told the PM that in order to handle the messy situation and any fallout in interior Sindh, responsibility should be fixed and heads must roll if the party wanted to win the next elections,” said the source, adding that the PPP ministers urged Gilani to talk to President Asif Ali Zardari.
The source said that most of the senior PPP ministers, including Khurshid Shah, Naveed Qamar, Chandio, Dr Asim Hussain, Ghous Bakhsh Mehr and Mir Hazar Khan Bajarani criticised the way the commissioner system was reversed in Sindh. They said people across Sindh were so aggressive against the PPP right now that its leaders could not even leave their houses, said the source, adding that the premier said he was unaware of all the fiasco and assured that the matter would be discussed further in private.
In the follow-up meeting, Chandio adopted a hawkish tone against his predecessor, Babar Awan, and told the PM that an “un-elected” former minister had visited Karachi and turned the win of the PPP and of the Sindhi people into a total loss. The source said that Khurshid Shah told the PM that when the Sindh Assembly was in session, President Zardari had asked the Sindh CM to accept the demands put forth by the MQM to resolve the unrest in Karachi.
“Shah said that now the Sindhi people had an impression that this decision was taken to win the MQM’s support, which has strengthened the anti-PPP politicians in rural Sindh,” said Khurshid. “Gilani phoned the president and informed him about the concerns expressed by the cabinet ministers. The president agreed that the situation should be discussed at length and a meeting was scheduled for today at the Presidency, which would be attended by President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and the PPP ministers, while PML-Q Minister Ghous Bakhsh Mehr is also likely to attend the meeting to review the political fallout from the reversal of the local government system in Sindh,” said the source.
Meanwhile, Secretary Cabinet Nargis Sethi provoked the PM in her briefing on the Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill 2011, saying it was aimed at encroaching upon the executive powers of the PM. She also said two federal secretaries – former establishment secretary Sohail Ahmed and his predecessor Abdul Rauf Chaudhry – had attached dissenting notes to the bill, stating that it would reduce the office of the chief executive to “a postman”.
The PM commented in response that he had always followed the recommendations of the Central Selection Board strictly on merit and never used his discretionary powers in appointing civil servants, said the source. This prompted a debate, which finally ended with the cabinet secretary advising that the bill be referred to the Law Ministry for comments.