Imran’s across-the-board accountability

The News

ISLAMABAD: Nearly a dozen members of the federal and provincial cabinets belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have had to step down over the last 33 months after their names figured in scandals or inquiries.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhary Fawad Hussain has already said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s accountability policy was obvious that all citizens were equal before the law.
Fawad said it is only in the government of Imran Khan that initiates investigations when allegations surface. He said this was not the case in the eras of the PMLN and PPP as all the hue and cry of the media then only used to fall on deaf ears. The latest addition to the list is Special Assistant Zulfi Bukhari, whose name was indirectly cited in the Rawalpindi Commissioner’s minority fact-finding inquiry into the Rs65 billion Rawalpindi Ring Road (R3) project, which the government adopted and is implementing. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) are currently investigating the mega scam. In addition, a special audit of the project has also been ordered by the Punjab government.
After the emergence of the report, Zulfi Bukhari quit the cabinet. While relinquishing the office, he stated in a series of tweets that the prime minister had always said that if a person has been named, rightly or wrongly, in any inquiry he should cease to hold any public office till his name was cleared of all charges. Owing to the allegations in the ongoing R3 inquiry, he said, he wanted to set an example by resigning from his office until his name was cleared of all allegations and from the media’s “obnoxious lies”. He said he had nothing to do with the R3 or any current real estate project. The name of Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan also indirectly surfaced in the R3 inquiry report that he described as one-sided. He argued that the two other members of the fact-finding team did not concur with the report and wrote their own findings. He has repeatedly dubbed the R3 as the flagship project of the government that should not be abandoned.
Once among the most influential PTI leaders, Jahangir Tareen had to leave a federal task force after the sugar report prepared by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was made public by the government. After that, three criminal cases have been registered by the FIA against him on charges of money laundering. Besides, different agencies are conducting probes into the sugar scandal against him. The ‘rebel’ federal and Punjab lawmakers from the PTI gathered by Tareen in his support recently reached a truce with the government. They want ‘justice’ to be done to their leader and want the ‘fixed’ investigations against him to be immediately halted.
When the FIA report into the wheat scandal was simultaneously released by the federal government, Punjab Food Minister Samiullah Chaudhry had “voluntarily” stepped down saying that he would not hold any government office till the allegations against him were cleared. He had said that he is willing to present himself for accountability at every forum.
National Health Services Minister Amir Kayani, another senior PTI leader, was removed from the federal cabinet because of the massive hike in the prices of medicines. “I cannot be blamed for the price hike. I respect the prime minister’s decision of my removal from office,” he had said at the time. After that, his senior position in the PTI was restored.
Special Assistant on Petroleum Nadeem Babar had to leave the cabinet after he was asked by the prime minister to step down several months after the official investigation into the fuel shortage. Imran Khan had taken many months to reach this decision. Nothing has been heard from Nadeem Babar, who holds dual nationality, since he resigned.
Federal Minister Azam Swati had resigned fearing that the Supreme Court, then led by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, would disqualify him for pressuring the Islamabad police for favours after his tussle with a poor family that took place near his farmhouse. After his resignation, the judicial proceedings against him were discontinued. Soon after, Swati staged a comeback in the cabinet.
Punjab Minister Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Sibtain Khan had to resign after he was arrested by NAB in a case related to alleged corruption and the illegal grant of contracts.
He was accused of having awarded a multi-billion-rupee contract in Chiniot to a company of his choice during the tenure of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) government. When he was granted bail after a few months, he was restored to the cabinet.
Punjab’s senior minister Aleem Khan faced exactly the same situation.
Aun Chaudhry, who closely worked at the federal level, was given marching orders without assigning any reasons for his removal. However, a few months later, he was inducted into the Punjab cabinet. An audio tape purportedly linked to Ajmal Wazir led to his sacking as adviser to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister on information and public relations. In the audio tape, Wazir was allegedly talking to an unidentified representative of an advertising agency demanding kickbacks for the release of government advertisements. He was also allegedly discussing the mode of the payment of commission with the official of the advertising agency. An inquiry into the scandal was ordered by the chief minister. After a long interval, it was stated that Wazir had been cleared. However, he has not been taken back into the cabinet.
Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan also had to step down as the special assistant to the prime minister on information. At the time, certain allegations were being hurled at her which were not substantiated subsequently. After some time, she was inducted into the Punjab cabinet as special assistant to the chief minister on information.

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