President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday held separate meetings with PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), taking them into confidence over the government’s decision to revert back to the local bodies’ system introduced in 2001 in Sindh.
This was the first time since the PML-Q joined the ruling coalition three months ago that the party’s chief took secretary-general, Mushahid Hussain, to meet President Zardari. Mushahid, who had contested presidential election against President Zardari, had been a strong critic of his party’s decision to join hands with the PPP.
Sources said that Zardari and PML-Q leaders discussed ways and means to enhance their alliance. The president, sources said, agreed to allocate two of the PML-Q state ministers new portfolios whose ministries had been devolved to provinces.
Sheikh Waqas Akram, who earlier had the office of minister of state for labour and manpower and Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain, who held the portfolio of a federal minister, will now be accommodated as deputy minister in the newly-created ministry of human resource development.
Shahjahan Yousaf, who had served as the state minister for health, will now work as the deputy minister in another newly-constituted ministry of professional and technical training.
After their ministries were devolved to provinces in June, several of the ministers including those of newly joined PML-Q were rendered redundant. To accommodate them the government constituted three new divisions – human resource development, professional and technical training and inter-faith harmony.
Akram Masih Gill, who was minister of state for minorities’ affairs before this subject was handed over to the provinces, has already been made the federal minister for inter-faith harmony while Wajahat Hussain and Riaz Pirzada have been given charges of federal ministers for human resource development and professional and technical training respectively.
President Zardari is facing stiff resistance from within his own party over the new deal with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, especially from Sindh leaders.
“We have to face our electorates, not Babar Awan. We have strong reservations about the way this deal was clinched,” a federal minister from Sindh had told The Express Tribune the other day during an interaction.
Under such circumstances President Zardari is seeking support from other parties to give his own party members the message to quell this internal rift, sources said.
President Zardari also held a meeting with the JUI-F chief, who recently threatened to quit from the ruling alliance in Balochistan. Maulana Fazl’s party has already parted ways with the PPP at the centre.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2011.