MABAD/LAHORE - The PPP-led government suffered another setback as it plunged to another crisis Tuesday when JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced Tuesday that his party had decided to quit the coalition government.
The latest twist in the countrys politics came after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani earlier in the day sacked Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi and Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati from their offices. It is worth mentioning that Swati was one of the three JUI-Fs ministers who were inducted in the cabinet.
As soon a high-level meeting of JUI-F made the decision, the remaining two ministers also sent their resignations to the prime minister.
They include Federal Minister Housing and Works Minister Rehmat Ullah Kakar and Federal Minister for Tourism Atta-ur-Rehman.
After the announcement, President Zardari and Premier Gilani telephoned Fazlur Rehman but he refused to talk. When asked about the contact by the Presidency, Fazl while talking to media said, Please avoid such critical questions.
He said the governments one-sided decision compelled them to quit the coalition government, adding that they were not taken into confidence over issue.
The JUI-F chief said he had responded positively to the reconciliation policy of the PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, adding that he asked the president to implement the agreement reached with the JUI-F which had joined the government on the basis of the deal.
He said the party had written many letters to Prime Minister Gilani to take action against the people involved in the Haj scandal but the government did not take any action. Instead, it dismissed their minister Azam Swati who stood firm against the huge corruption in Haj operations, he added.
When asked about the blasphemy law, he ridiculed Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseers statements about amending the law and expressed his anger over the private bill moved by PPP MNA Sherry Rehman for this purpose.
In response to a question, he asked the PPP government to revoke the notification of Swatis removal and issue a formal apology.
About the future plan of action and RGST Bill which would soon be tabled in the Lower House of the Parliament, Fazl said the JUI-F would oppose the bill and would not bail out the govt from the possible embarrassment during the voting.
Later, as a reconciliatory move, President Zardaris spokesman Dr Qayyum Soomro reached Fazls residence for convincing him to withdraw his decision.
Meanwhile, talking to media after a religious ceremony at Kala Shah Kaku near Lahore, Kazmi said a particular group was conspiring against him after his appointment as the federal minister for Religious Affairs. They wanted to grab the ministry, he added.
Talking about his removal, Kazmi said the decision had been taken although there was no solid proof against him but he had no complaint over the move.
I am simple man and not involved in any corruption, he said.
He said fabricated stories were being spread just for targeting him.
When asked why he did not resign despite constant pressure, Kazmi replied he wanted to stand up against the conspirators and there was no reason to do so in the absence of concrete evidence.
He reminded the reporters that no accused could be termed criminal till the charges were proved in the court.
On the reports of freezing his bank accounts, Kazmi he had no wealth; therefore, the decision, if taken, would not affect him.
In an exclusive telephonic conversation with Nawa-i-Waqt from Zurich, Azam Swati described his removal as an honour, saying he was the lone minister in Pakistan who had ever been sacked over pointing out corruption.
He said he was grateful to Maulana Fazlur Rehman and other party elders for deciding to quit the govt after his expulsion from the cabinet. He also thanked the people and media for, what he called naming, him as the 'honest minister.
This day will always be remembered as an important milestone in the countrys history, he remarked, adding that it had inculcated a new feeling in the nation.
It was a JUI-F minister who exposed corruption prevailing in the government, he said.
Swati said the incumbent govt never paid attention to science and technology, as the budget of Higher Education Commission (HEC) was slashed while that of BISP, which he termed as bogus, was increased from Rs30 billion to Rs90 billion. He had walked out of the cabinet meeting when it was approved, Swati added.
The JUI-F senator said he would stay in Zurich at his daughters house and also land in Dubai for some days.
It is pertinent to recall that Swati runs a departmental store chain and oil companies in the US where he had stayed till late 1990s but later opted to return to Pakistan.
Talking to media, Federal Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira said obviously there were some differences between the two allies but the matter would soon be resolved amicably.
Though the PMs House statement about the sacking of the two ministers did not mention any reasons but they have been fired over the controversy about the corruption in the Haj operations. Kazmi is facing serious allegations of corruption in Haj levelled against him by Swati and others. It resulted in media war as both the ministers did not follow the premiers advice to avoid issuing statements, thus aggravating the differences between the two cabinet fellows.
Prime Minister Gilani has given the additional charge of Religious Affairs to Syed Khursheed Shah, Minister of Labour and Manpower Minister of Education Sardar Assef Ahmed will look after the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The premier has also appointed Makhdoom Shahbuddin as Minister for Defence Production, who will continue to hold his portfolio of the Health Ministry. The slot was vacant after the resignation by former minister Abdul Qayyum Jatoi.
Meanwhile, Secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs Agha Sarwar Raza
Qazalbash has been directed to report to the Establishment Division, while Secretary Overseas Pakistanis Division Saeed Khan has replaced Qazalbash.