Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry warned on Tuesday that if the PPP is unable to bring change to Sindh and the chief minister does not resign, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government “will need to take practical steps”.
Chaudhry, while speaking to reporters upon arrival in Karachi, explained that the government wants “the PPP to bring change themselves”, and for a new chief minister to take the place of Murad Shah, a senior PPP leader who was named in the joint investigation team’s report in the fake accounts case.
“We want to first give them an opportunity [to bring change]. If this opportunity is not availed, and they do not take advantage of it, and Murad Shah does not resign, then we will certainly need to take practical steps here,” he said.
When asked about the possibility of the PTI forming a forward bloc in the PPP to remove the provincial government, Chaudhry responded that any person who carries the pain of the people of Sindh in his heart will want change in the province, no matter what party he belongs to.
He said that even ‘serious’ members of the PPP wanted to change, adding that when this issue began, PPP members had themselves contacted the PTI and asked it to step forward for a change.
“It is also a right of the people of Sindh to see the wave of change that the three other provinces have seen, that all of Pakistan has seen. It is the right of the people of Sindh that they become part of this change,” he added.
The federal minister pointed out that Sindh had not contributed to the National Finance Commission award for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) although the “other provinces and the federal government had given their share for its development”.
The PTI-run Federal, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments had decided on Jan 4 to jointly provide the equivalent of 3pc of the federal divisible pool for uplifting Fata after its merger with KP.
Chaudhry claimed that although the PPP paints itself as a “vision of democracy” when the time for action came, it disassociated itself from Fata.
He alleged that Sindh’s money would “not be spent on the poor people” of the province. “It will go to the Omni Group and into branches of the Zardari Gropu of companies. The painful thing is that Sindh’s funds are being spent in London and Dubai.”
He claimed that those who are “closest to the people will talk about change”, and that a large majority of the PPP MPAs would side with the PTI.
The tenure of Zardari’s monarchy has come to an end, similarly, the Sindh’s lease to Omni group has also expired, the minister said.
“I am astonished that NAB still hasn’t arrested Asif, Faryal and Murad Ali Shah despite the fact that the watchdog has to complete the probe in two months.”
He alleged that the “residents of Bilawal House” and “the man in CM House [in Karachi]” are beneficiary of the fake accounts. He also accused the watchdog of showing leniency.
Chaudhry said no doubt the 18th Amendment has several positive impacts, including devolution of power which enabled transfer of large funds to provinces. “But the point is, where did these funds go?”
“They [PPP] are demanding funds form themselves and not for the people of Sindh. Whenever the rulers in Sindh are asked about accountability, suddenly the democracy becomes ‘vulnerable’,” the minister remarked.
PTI-PPP tussle heats up
A tussle between the PPP and PTI over money laundering and the fake bank accounts case has heated up in recent days, with the ruling party in Sindh accusing the Centre of attempting to dislodge the provincial government and warning it of dire consequences if any attempt is made to arrest top party cadre.
Chaudhry’s two-day trip to Sindh scheduled for December was shelved after Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar’s observations during an earlier hearing of the fake accounts case indicated that the PTI was trying to topple the PPP government.
Chaudhry was allegedly tasked by the prime minister to meet leaders of political parties apart from the PPP during his earlier trip to Sindh and seek their support for dislodging the PPP government.
The information minister, however, has denied that his party wishes to dislodge the PPP government. “We do not want to dislodge the PPP government in Sindh but want to forge consensus on the demand for resignation of Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to ensure fair trial of Asif Ali Zardari and company,” he had said earlier, adding that the PTI had no intention to impose governor’s rule in Sindh or repeal the 18th Amendment.
The information minister had explained during an earlier press conference that his visit had been cancelled by Prime Minister Imran Khan to reject the impression that the Centre wanted to topple the Sindh government.
PPP is the majority party in the Sindh Assembly with 99 seats while the PTI and its allies have a total of 64 seats. The PTI requires 18 more members to outnumber the PPP to form its government in the province. However, it is believed that it would be a hard nut to crack to defeat the PPP in the provincial assembly as the party enjoys a formidable position in the province since long and has been in office there for over a decade.