SHABQADAR / PESHAWAR: Since the governor will play a focal role in the negotiations between the Taliban and government due to his position as chief executive of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) – the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) wants its own man in that position.
After a long discussion, the PML-N decided on Sardar Mehtab Abbasi, the leader of the opposition in the provincial assembly. He met with Punjab Chief Minister and party leader Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore last week to discuss this, after which his name was made public for the position of governor. It was confirmed at the wedding of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid Senator Mushahid Hussain’s son in Islamabad.
Those who met Abbasi at the wedding told The Express Tribune that he is reluctant to take up the post as he feels an active politician like himself should be a chief minister, opposition leader or federal minister. Due to his friendship with the Sharif family, however, he found it difficult to refuse Shahbaz’s proposal.
Advisor to the Prime Minister and PML-N Central Vice President Amir Muqam confirmed the development and said the party’s central leadership had finalised Abbasi’s name for governorship.
He said the decision had been taken to change the governor and the current governor, Shaukatullah Khan, has been taken into confidence.
He said the PML-N had criticised the provincial government but it was constructive criticism, they were not trying to topple the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government, but wanted to work with them.
An inside source claims that during the meeting with Shahbaz, Abbasi demanded full authority to transfer and post competent officials in Fata and FATA Secretariat to achieve peace in the region. He also asked for extra funds for tribal areas.
MNA Bismillah Khan, the father of the incumbent governor, however, has started lobbying for his own son. It was Bismillah who helped the PML-N get the vote of Fata’s independent parliamentarians for Mamnoon Husain during the presidential elections. Bismillah’s other son, Hidayatullah, is a senator from Nawagai, Bajaur Agency.
A source in Bismillah’s native village of Nawagai told The Express Tribune that Bismillah had a good relationship with Hamza Shahbaz and Chaudhry Nisar. The source claimed that Bismillah had asked them to help his son retain his post till he completes his two-year term so he could be eligible for pension and other benefits in the future. The source added that he claimed Shaukatullah’s removal would not be a good idea at the moment.
A former Fata parliamentarian who is close to the governor told The Express Tribune that Shaukatullah was an important player because of being a tribal head, a Khan who had cordial relations with the establishment. Being a tribal leader, said the source, Shaukatullah can play a vital role in the peace process.
A current Fata parliamentarian said many MNAs and ministers were not happy with the governor.
According to a PML-N insider it all boils down to who will get the credit if the talks are successful. If the talks fail, it will be a burden on Shaukatullah’s shoulders and he will be removed from his position. If they are successful, he will stay.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2014.