Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani lost his temper at a member of his own cabinet, Minorities Affairs Minister Akram Masih Gill, on Wednesday for protesting alongside other legislators from religious minorities who staged a sit-in during a session of the National Assembly.
“You should behave like a minister. Otherwise, I will have to sack you. Get up and go sit in your seat,” Gilani said angrily to Gill, who had joined his fellow MNAs from religious minorities to demand that the devolution of the minorities’ ministry to the provincial level be prevented.
Gill continued his protest even after being reminded by National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza about the constitutional convention that prevents cabinet members from publicly disagreeing with government policy. Gilani’s remarks were a follow-up to the speaker’s reminder to the minister.
Gill’s predecessor in his cabinet position, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated on March 2 by militants irked by his advocacy of minorities’ rights, particularly those who have been accused of blasphemy.
Lawmakers from minority faiths were pressing their demand that the ministry that deals with their affairs not be devolved to provinces, as is currently planned after the 18th Amendment to the constitution abolished the concurrent list and gave away several legislative powers, including those for minority affairs, to the federating units.
Despite his snub of Gill, the prime minister said he would personally look into the matter to see whether any middle ground could be found. “The devolution process is ongoing and it would be done in light of the Constitution,” he said.
“I have already said it openly that women and minorities are my constituencies and I look after them. I have assured minority members of all political parties in the National Assembly that we will find a way out. We are providing you unprecedented support,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2011.