Once seen as the president’s closest aide, Babar Awan is feeling the effects of falling out of favour.
Lending credence to reports that relations between Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) top leadership and its vice president have soured, the party on Saturday removed Awan from the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.
PPP Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira has replaced Awan in the 12-member panel, which is headed by Senator Raza Rabbani.
“It is a decision of the party leadership and I am bound to obey,” said Kaira while talking to The Express Tribune.
Kaira denied, however, that Awan was being removed from the central executive committee of the party, saying these reports were mere gossip.
Refusal to back PM
Elevated as vice president of the PPP in December last year, Awan is facing isolation since his refusal to appear before the Supreme Court to record a statement in favour of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in contempt of court proceedings.
The premier’s counsel, Aitzaz Ahsan, had submitted the names of Awan, law secretary Masood Chishti and Nargis Sethi as defence witnesses, but the two men refused to appear before the court.
Awan’s refusal to testify in court earned him the ire of the party leadership, especially the president. The premier, at a gathering later said: “When I needed a witness in the court, men refused but a woman sided with me.”
According to some reports, Awan was quoted as saying that he had no fears going to the court and testifying but had objections to being roped in as a defence witness.
A few days later, Prime Minister Gilani shifted Awan’s younger brother, Ghulam Farooq, from his position as Adviser to the Ministry of Law to Adviser to the Ministry of Postal Services.
Chishti, also an Awan appointee, was removed from his law secretary post a few weeks ago, too.
The former law minister is also facing contempt proceedings for his criticism of judiciary in his address last year in December after the Supreme Court accepted Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief’s petition and formed a judicial commission on Memogate.
The court will frame contempt charges against him on April 2.
Raja Riaz faces the axe
The party’s punitive measures do not stop at Awan though - those associated closely with him are also being removed from key party posts.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the party has, in principle, decided to remove the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly, Raja Riaz – and one of the reasons behind the decision is that he was Awan’s nominee.
The sources added that a final decision will be taken on April 4 by President Asif Ali Zardari on the death anniversary of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, when he will finalise the names proposed for replacement.
A name seriously being considered for Riaz’s post is that of Tanveer Ashraf Kaira, who has previously been finance minister in the Punjab cabinet, and is a cousin of Qamar Zaman Kaira, sources added.
While there are other reasons for Riaz’s removal from the position, according to the sources, the main reason is his link with Awan. Other reasons include Riaz’s lack of participation in legislation and his absence from parliamentary meetings.
Sources added that the president had formed a high-level committee to submit a report about the poor performance of the party in the Punjab in Senate elections and according to the committee’s findings, Awan and Riaz were held responsible.
Riaz, while talking with The Express Tribune said that everything he had done in Punjab had been on the directives of the presidency. He added that he did not know of any decisions regarding his replacement, although he had learnt that some of PPP’s MPAs are lobbying for his removal.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2012.
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