Khawar Ghumman

Sep 052016
NA speaker’s ‘partisan’ attitude angers opposition

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the National Assembly launched an all-out attack against Speaker Ayaz Sadiq over what they termed his “blatant partisanship” in handling the references seeking the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his arch-rival Imran Khan. Opposition members laid into Speaker Ayaz Sadiq for toeing the PML-N line. Protesting the way Mr Sadiq discharged his duty as the custodian of the house, both main opposition parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — staged token walkouts. Meanwhile, the outspoken independent MNA from Muzaffargarh, Jamshed Dasti, also lashed out at the speaker for “undermining the dignity of his office by targeting the PTI chief”. Of the eight references filed with the speaker — four against PM Sharif, two against Imran Khan and one each against Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Jahangir Tareen — only those against the two PTI leaders were forwarded to the ECP for action. But according to the speaker, the documentary evidence attached with the rest of the disqualification references did not add up. However, he mentioned that even those had been forwarded to the ECP for their information. PTI, PPP stage walkouts; Ayaz Sadiq says only two references came with ‘actionable evidence’ Soon after the end of the mandatory Question Hour, PTI legislators sought a point of order to highlight the speaker’s action over the disqualification references. However, Mr Sadiq refused to entertain them and proceeded with the day’s agenda. At this, the opposition benches, led by PTI lawmakers, began thumping [Read More…]

Aug 022016
Govt burns midnight oil to end loadshedding

ISLAMABAD: With less than two years to go before next general elections, the PML-N government is already having sleepless nights. The reason, according to officials in the know, is the challenge to fulfil its promise of ending electricity loadshedding by May 2018. Having promised to add at least 10,000 megawatts to the national grid during its five-year stint, the ruling party is finding the target thorny. Besides faulty planning, some unforeseen happenings have also proved undoing for the government. The issue came under discussion during a meeting on energy presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by senior federal ministers and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday. Although a press release issued after the meeting quoted the prime minister as saying, “we will end loadshedding by the end of our tenure”, titbit of information on the huddle shared with Dawn suggested visible signs of anxiety gripping the participants. The meeting reviewed the progress on the ongoing and future energy projects in terms of the benchmarks. “The risk is too high if the government fails to generate required amount of megawatts and control loadshedding before PML-N leaders hit the road for the 2018 general elections campaign,” admitted a PML-N legislator privy to the government’s nervousness caused by the severity of the task. Therefore, he said, during the meeting the Sharif brothers again directed the relevant ministers and officials to take whatever measures they required to speed up completion of power projects. But, he said, in terms of the [Read More…]

Jul 252016
Senators call for de-politicisation of police

ISLAMABAD: Across the aisle, members of the upper house of parliament on Monday called for de-politicisation of police throughout the country. On the private members day, senators from the ruling and opposition parties conceded that the ‘lust for power and protocol’ of the political class was the chief cause for the poor standards of policing across the country. The debate took place as a result of a motion moved by PML-N’s Senator Chaudhry Tanvir Khan, who had sought discussion on the need for the provision of adequate salary and fringe benefits for the Islamabad police. However, the subject griped the attention of senators, who all wanted to give their input for the improvement of the police which otherwise is a provincial subject. Opening the debate, Senator Khan said that until the service structure of the police was not brought on a par with other law enforcement agencies, one shouldn’t expect effective policing. Better service conditions, remunerations, controlled duty hours were some of the suggestions which Senator Khan made in his speech. Moreover, he said there was a need for better projection of the police force in the society. Senator Saud Majeed of the PML-N accepted in so many words that it was politicians who had ruined police in the country. “When appointments of SHOs and DPOs cannot be made without the prior approval of the MPAs and MNAs concerned, one can well imagine the quality of policing, because the appointees will always look towards their patrons for action,” said Mr [Read More…]

Jul 012016
Govt claims achieving milestones in economic sphere

ISLAMABAD: The government continues to boast about what it called “historically positive economic indicators” which have brought about long-term economic stability in the country, but its detractors describe them as mere eyewash which have nothing to do with the life of the common man. This time appreciation has come from none other than Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from London, who praised Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team for “unprecedented economic returns for the country”. The country’s foreign exchange reserves, which stood at $6.8 billion in June 2013, have crossed the $23bn mark. “The present highest foreign exchange reserves in Pakistan’s history speak volumes of the success of our government’s economic policies. Our policies are aimed at achieving long-term economic stability and sustainable growth,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in a press statement issued here on Friday. It said the prime minister had lauded the government’s economic team led by Mr Dar for achieving milestones in the economic sphere and putting the country on the path of sustainable economic growth and prosperity. Mr Sharif particularly spoke high about the upward tax collection and said the Rs3,104bn revenue generation represented a 60 per cent increase in last three years, “which is an average increase of 20pc per year annum”, against the average increase of mere 3pc during the period between 2008 and 2013. The prime minister claimed that the next two financial years would see more economic growth and enhanced investment in energy and infrastructure sectors. “Our government is [Read More…]

Jun 212016
Qureshi, Tareen get top PTI posts, again

ISLAMABAD: After around two years of internecine strife, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) came full circle on Tuesday when it appointed again Shah Mehmood Qureshi vice chairman and Jahangir Khan Tareen general secretary, the two senior most party positions after that of the chairman. According to two separate notifications signed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Mr Qureshi and Mr Tareen would assume the offices with immediate effect, the media wing of the PTI said in a press release. After the PTI failed to conduct intra-party elections, which were scheduled for April-May, to elect its new office- bearers, the party leadership has decided to fill the positions through nominations by the chairman. Following the emergence of the Panama Papers scandal during the first week of April, Mr Khan had said PTI workers needed to focus on the anti-government campaign rather than using their energies in contesting polls for the party offices. But for PTI detractors, it is bitter rivalry among senior leaders of the party and lack of organisation which have forced Mr Khan to postpone the elections. Otherwise, they said, the party should have gone ahead with the exercise Mr Khan held dear to his heart to turn the PTI into the first truly democratic party of the country. Mr Khan has announced that his party will launch an anti-government movement if the government refuses to hold a free and fair investigation into the Panama Papers leaks starting with the prime minister and his three children. And two years down the [Read More…]

Jun 132016
PML-N lawmakers lash out at own ministers

ISLAMABAD: While the ministers for finance, foreign affairs and water and power were the main targets of criticism from across the aisle, a number of treasury lawmakers also spoke harshly about their own senior cabinet members. They criticised the ministers’ complete obliviousness to ground realities and derided policies that were made “out of thin air”. In the eyes of one veteran Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker from Gujranwala, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was the ideal choice to be the country’s foreign minister. Retired Justice Iftikhar Ahmad Cheema, in an unreserved speech, said that at a time when Indians were forging alliances — both at the regional and international level — and bringing investment worth billions of dollars to their country, “our Foreign Office is simply missing from the scene, which shows its abject failure.” Criticise budget’s lack of measures for farmers’ protection; members berate Foreign Office for ‘not doing its job’ Justice Cheema, who recently reclaimed his seat after being de-seated by the Supreme Court for hiding his assets, seemed unaware that the prime minister currently held the portfolio of foreign minister and that the octogenarian Sartaj Aziz was merely an adviser. “The best option for the government at the moment is to bring the Punjab CM to the federal government and appoint him foreign minister.” In the same breath, Justice Cheema also took Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to task for ignoring the plight of small farmers. “With the government’s negligence of the agriculture sector, farmers have no option but [Read More…]

Jun 102016
Panamagate ToR negotiations hit dead end

ISLAMABAD: The 12-member bipartisan parliamentary committee assigned to formulate terms of reference (ToR) for the proposed Panama Papers commission seemed to have hit a dead end on Friday as both sides not only refused to budge from their positions on the issue of offshore companies but also accused each other of toughening their stance. While the opposition insists on starting the Panamagate probe from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his three children, the government side wants to enact a law that would extend the scope of investigations but would not make any reference to the premier. After the seventh sitting held here at the Parliament House on Friday, the two sides agreed to meet again on Tuesday but expressed little hope for finding common ground to resolve the issue. Both government and opposition stick to their positions Tariq Bashir Cheema, who represents the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid on the opposition side, said: “I think the next meeting of the committee will be the last one because the government is in no mood of conducting the Panama Papers inquiry.” Talking to Dawn, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that he was ‘utterly disappointed’ with the government’s attitude because it had returned to its initial stance. “If the government continues with the similar position, it’s just a matter of wasting time to sit on this committee,” he said. In reply to a question, Mr Qureshi said he would brief the PTI leadership about the situation and it was up to them whether [Read More…]

Jun 072016
‘PM-first’ ToR main irritant for Panama committee

ISLAMABAD: There are few things that both the government and opposition agree on. So when the parliamentary committee assigned to formulate terms of reference (ToR) for the proposed Panama Papers Commission met for the sixth time on Tuesday, all they could agree on was that they should meet again on Friday. The main sticking-point is still the question of whether to begin the probe from the prime minister’s children, and if the post-meeting remarks from both sides are anything to go by, the in camera deliberations are “back to square one”. The government, sources privy to the meetings say, insists on formulating a ToR that is generic, whereas the nine-party opposition bloc believes that the whole exercise will be futile if the prime minister and his family are not investigated first and foremost. Saad Rafique challenges PTI to take to the streets, says govt won’t let PM be targeted Talking to reporters outside the Parliament House, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique — who represents the government on the 12-member committee, said: “The opposition’s entire argument revolves around one person; the prime minister. We cannot allow them to destabilise the country like that.” Known for his aggression and no-holds-barred demeanour, Mr Rafique attempted to call the PTI’s bluff when he said: “We know one of the opposition parties is planning to come out on the roads. We are ready to face them, but we cannot let them defame Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.” He added that similar attempts were made in the [Read More…]

May 242016
Opposition renews call for full-time foreign minister

ISLAMABAD: Following the government’s lacklustre response to the drone strike that reportedly killed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, opposition parties have once again criticised the prime minister for not appointing a full-time foreign minister. Following the PPP’s lead, the PTI also submitted an adjournment motion in the National Assembly on Tuesday to discuss national security matters on the floor of the house in the aftermath of the drone attack. Although Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has appointed Tariq Fatemi as special assistant and Sartaj Aziz as adviser on foreign affairs, he is keeping the portfolio of foreign affairs with himself. Opposition benches in both houses of parliament have, time and again, highlighted the absence of a full-time foreign minister, but to no avail. “I don’t understand why a full-time foreign minister cannot be appointed; why either Fatemi or Aziz are not given the ministry or why the position cannot be filled from within the federal cabinet,” said PPP Senator Sherry Rehman, adding that she couldn’t understand the logic behind keeping one of the key ministries without a minister. Ms Rehman, who served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US under the previous PPP government, said this was a challenging time for Pakistan, within the region and also globally. “It is hard to understand why the prime minister insists on keeping decision-making within a closed circle,” she said, wondering who read important cables at the Foreign Office in the absence of a federal minister. A similar argument was made by Dr Shireen [Read More…]

Apr 122016
Timing of PM’s UK visit has tongues wagging

ISLAMABAD: After an extended weekend in Lahore, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will head to London on Wednesday for a three-day visit to undergo a pending medical check-up, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Tuesday. When asked, a senior PM Office official said that only close family members would be joining him on the trip but did not give any details. PM Sharif’s two sons — Hassan and Hussain — are already abroad. However, with the PM and his family becoming embroiled in the controversy surrounding the Panama Papers leak, his trip to London has created a lot of interest in political circles. In particular, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari’s presence in London is being viewed meaningfully by the media at home. Lending credence to the possibility of a meeting between the two political heavyweights — a sitting PM and a former president, no less — was PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan. At a time when PTI Chairman Imran Khan is ready to launch another sit-in, this time in Raiwind, the leader of the opposition in the Senate had been casting doubt on the reasons for the PM’s sudden visit to London. Talking to journalists outside parliament on Tuesday, Senator Ahsan wisecracked: “The prime minister has no medical issues and is only visiting London to present himself in the court of Asif Ali Zardari.” He was also quick to add that whenever the prime minister came under pressure, he always looked towards the PPP leadership for help. But in response, Dr Musadik [Read More…]