Imran Khan’s lawmakers and their many controversies leave PM with a headache

A little over two weeks have passed since Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf took power at the centre and two provinces, and multiple controversies have already given the new prime minister many headaches

world Updated: Sep 02, 2018 23:56 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Imran Khan,Pakistan,Pakistan lawmakers
Imran Khan (C), chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party speaks after he was elected as Prime Minister at the National Assembly (Lower House of Parliament) in Islamabad, Pakistan August 17, 2018. (REUTERS)

A little over two weeks have passed since Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf took power at the centre and two provinces, and multiple controversies have already given the new prime minister many headaches.

This week, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar ordered PTI provincial assembly member Dr Imran Shah to donate Rs3 million to the Diamer-Bhasha Dam fund as penalty. Shah was also banned from travelling in a luxury vehicle for up to one year. The reason? Shah had slapped Dawood Chauhan, a citizen, in a fit of rage on a Karachi street after he got between the lawmaker’s vehicle and that of his guards.

A video of the assault went viral on social media, eliciting much criticism. Karachi’s PTI leadership took Shah to Chauhan’s house to apologise but his son later tweeted that his father had been pressurised to forgive the lawmaker. This week, Saqib Nisar jumped in and made Shah contribute to a fund that he has created to help the country build more dams.

Another lawmaker who has repeatedly courted controversy is Punjab’s provincial information and culture minister, Fayazul Hassan Chohan, who drew the ire of social media users for calling Adolf Hitler one of his “favourite rulers”.

But his controversies do not end there. While advocating for a ban of “vulgar” movie posters outside cinemas, he was filmed using colourful language, with many of his misogynistic remarks directed towards female artistes.

A few days earlier, he was seen abusing a private TV channel’s technical staff after he was asked about his controversial remarks in the past.

However, the issue has not been restricted to the provinces. Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi recently embarrassed the government with his remarks on a conversation between Khan and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

The controversy erupted after the US state department stated that Pompeo raised the importance of Khan’s government taking “decisive action” against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry took exception, saying that a “factually incorrect statement” had issued by the state department. Qureshi would later tell the Senate that he knew the US position about the talks between Pompeo and Khan but he was also aware what US said in the readout was “contrary to the facts”.

It was only after the US provided a recording of the conversation between Khan and Pompeo that Pakistan backed down, insisting that it wanted good relations between the two countries.

Another minister who exceeded his brief and got into hot waters was information minister Fawad Chaudhry, who made the startling revelation on TV that Khan’s helicopter commute costs between 50 to 55 rupees per kilometre. This revelation, which led to widespread mirth, was made in a heated exchange over Punjab’s chief minister’s usage of a private jet to travel with his family to Islamabad.

But the controversy that really caught people’s attention was one that involved the first lady’s ex-husband. A police team led by Rizwan Omar Gondal briefly intercepted the car of Khawar Maneka – formerly married to first lady Bushra Imran – after he didn’t stop when signalled to do so. Khawar was also believed to have misbehaved with the officials.

Gondal was later directed to visit Khawar’s residence and tender an apology to him for intercepting the vehicle. The call, interestingly, was made by a colonel of the ISI. Gondal told a meeting called by chief minister Usman Buzdar that the police department had only fulfilled its duties and that he would not apologise to Khawar.

Shortly afterwards, he was transferred and asked to report to the central police office in Lahore. The case has now been taken up by the chief justice.

First Published: Sep 02, 2018 23:55 IST