Pakistan’s prime minister claims opposition’s PDM alliance is ‘nearly finished’ and has ‘trapped’ itself with foreign funding case
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday approved Rs. 500 million in development funds for each lawmaker of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government, urging them to focus on uplift projects and the success of the Ehsaas program.
Chairing a meeting of the PTI’s parliamentarians and its allied parties in Islamabad, he said these funds should be utilized solely for development and urged them to visit shelter homes and focus on facilitating the impoverished. The approval marks yet another shift in policy for the prime minister, who had alleged that earmarking development funds for lawmakers was a form of “corruption” prior to winning the 2018 general elections.
According to sources, some women lawmakers, including Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, had also demanded development funds but were rebuffed by the prime minister. “You were brought into Parliament on reserved seats so what constituency would you spend the funds on,” he was cited as saying. To Mazari’s questioning of why women lawmakers who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts should not be granted funds, he reportedly accused her of trying to “blackmail” him and dismissed her concerns.
During the meeting, the prime minister sought to dismiss the perception of any threat from the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), claiming the alliance was “almost finished.” Claiming that the 11-party alliance had used its “full force” in staging nationwide rallies, he said the lack of public response proved the “people are not with them.”
Referring to the ruling party’s ongoing foreign funding case—pending with the Election Commission of Pakistan for over six years—he said that the opposition’s attempts to trap the PTI had actually ended up exposing them. Noting that the opposition lacked any cohesion, he claimed that if the PDM followed the PPP’s proposal to move a no-confidence motion in Parliament, the government would defeat it as it had all other measures taken by rival parties.
On the upcoming Senate elections, the prime minister said the government would amend the Constitution, if needed, to achieve open balloting and ensure transparency. Senior PTI leader Raja Riaz suggested that the government bring former PTI secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen back into the fold, tasking him with heading a panel to select the government’s candidates.
Tareen has been on the outs with the prime minister since 2019, and is one of the people accused of colluding with sugar mill owners to fix prices of the commodity in violation of government policies.
Several lawmakers criticized the role of unelected lawmakers in the federal cabinet, with PTI leader Noor Alam reportedly lamenting that they would “run away,” leaving the elected representatives having to face the people with the results of their policies. They also noted that all ministers should be made accountable for their poor performance, adding that the ground realities were much worse than what was being claimed in press conferences and media statements.
The prime minister reiterated his criticism of the Sindh government—led by the PPP—claiming the federal government would fulfill its responsibility to provide relief to the people of Karachi. Lawmakers, however, questioned the delay in implementing the Rs. 1.1. trillion Karachi Transformation Plan announced by the premier last year, with MNA Najeeb Haroon saying nothing would happen before 2023. He slammed the infighting of PTI members in Sindh, claiming the groupings made it difficult for the party to make any progress among constituents.
Khan claimed that the Karachi Transformation Plan was being carried out seriously, but several lawmakers criticized Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, claiming he was keeping the prime minister in the dark on the problems facing the public. Adviser to the P.M. on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh also came under criticism, with lawmakers questioning the massive debt added to public exchequer by the PTI-led government—Rs. 11.3 trillion in two years against Rs. 10.2 trillion added by the PMLN in five years.