ISLAMABAD – Former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira’s constant expression of realpolitik, in league with Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi, on Sunday reduced Federal Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan to tears during the 100th meeting of the federal cabinet and offer her resignation, which Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani rejected, as Federal Ministers Mian Manzoor Wattoo and Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain supported her.
The meeting, which was held in Karachi to coincide with the birth anniversary of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, saw Dr Awan weeping and handing in her resignation, said sources, adding that Wattoo took her resignation and tore it up with the permission of the prime minister. According to well-placed sources, Awan was already fed up with Kaira’s encroachments into her ministry ever since the latter was removed from the post of information minister. To begin with, Kaira did not surrender a sizeable staff and a few vehicles of the Information Ministry, a constant unauthorised financial burden to date, the sources said. Kaira’s interference reached extreme levels when he connived with Secretary Sethi to highjack the Karachi cabinet meeting, which was an explicit mandate of the incumbent information minister.
An information secretary of a political party, even if the party is in power, has no mandate to speak on behalf of the government and on matters related to the cabinet meeting, the sources said further.Firdous briefed Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani about the situation she had been faced with in the Information Ministry because of her colleagues and their “connivers” in the bureaucracy. According to the sources, the prime minister took stern notice of the transgressions by the bureaucrats, including Sethi, into the information minister’s mandate and her discretionary powers.
The sources also mentioned “prompted” tickers on the electronic media projecting Kaira’s name as information minister after Firdous’ resignation. Another constant cause of Dr Awan’s chagrin was the information minister’s chair in the National Assembly, which Kaira still continues to occupy. According to the sources, the chair – right at the back of the Leader of the House – is the entitlement of the incumbent information minister. That is why it was initially allotted to Kaira. It was the responsibility of the ruling party’s Chief Whip Syed Khursheed Shah to ensure seating entitlements.
“Here Shah has rather moved in favour of Kaira and against the entitlement of Dr Awan,” the sources said.
Other than Kaira and Sethi, Pakistan Television Corporation Managing Director Yusuf Baig Mirza was also one of the irritants for the information minister, the sources said. Despite being an attached department of her ministry, Mirza seldom bothers with Dr Awan’s instructions and policy guidelines. She was also feeling helpless in failing to remove Mirza despite having a plethora of allegations involving misuse of authority, unauthorised recruitments and other financial irregularities, the sources added.A source told Pakistan Today that the information minister got upset when she came to know that Kaira, a non-cabinet member, was invited to the 100th meeting to brief the members about the performance of the federal cabinet. The source said as Kaira started briefing the members, the information minister protested.
After the cabinet meeting, the prime minister had a one-on-one meeting with her. “The prime minister assured me that he would address my concerns and asked me to continue performing my duties,” she said, adding that conspiracies were being hatched against her ever since her appointment.However, the Information Minister’s resignation during the cabinet meeting was an unusual act by a cabinet member. The cabinet meeting was also attended by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on special invitation.Later, President Asif Ali Zardari also telephoned Dr Awan and assured her that her grievances would be addressed. “You are a brave person and brave people don’t get disheartened by conspiracies,” she quoted the president as telling her. – pakistantoday