Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan: Exclusive Interview

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Senior Reporter Amraiz Khan with Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan
Interviewed by Amraiz Khan

As the weather warms gradually, the political temperature in the power corridors and in opposition circles is also rising. The arrival of the Senate elections and the by-elections in the country increased the engagement of the politicians. To take stock of the situation, the daily Pakistan Observer arranged a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister’s Special Assistant on Information, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and discussed the current political scenario with her. Here Pakistan Observer is sharing her views for its valued readers in questions and answers form.

Question 1: Usually the ruling party wins the by-elections but this did not happen in the recently held by-elections. What do you say about it?

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan:

You are absolutely right. Pakistan’s history and tradition is that the ruling party generally does not allow the opposition to win by-elections and for this purpose it uses every tactic, including administration, development schemes, government funds and political influence. But Prime Minister Imran Khan is coming to power with the mission of burying the same political culture.

Years later, an honest and trustworthy ruler has had the opportunity to put an end to this practice of looting and establish a clean electoral culture in the country, and our ruling party has done just that. That is why the by-elections across the country are so clean and transparent manner as a result of which PTI loses and wins in different constituencies.

Question 2: The Election Commission of Pakistan has issued a press release on the Daska by-elections. Is it in favour of PTI or against it?

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan: This press release is based on an independent and sovereign body’s own observation. It should not be seen in the context of pro-PTI or anti-PTI. I will say again that the credit for this goes to Prime Minister Imran Khan who has given so much freedom and autonomy to the national institutions that they are fulfilling their basic responsibilities in a very efficient manner.

Question 3: After the Daska election, the Election Commission has raised the question of transparency. How will PTI conduct Senate elections in a transparent manner?

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan: Prime Minister Imran Khan, by proposing an open ballot, wanted to close the chapter on alleged rigging and buying and selling of votes in the elections forever. But the opposition refused to give up its old way of furnishing loot and note markets. Our government has gone to the Supreme Court to seek its opinion on this.

As it is the mandate of Parliament to approve electoral reforms that will free Pakistan’s electoral system from all flaws and shortcomings and all this will be possible with the cooperation of the opposition. However, in accordance with the vision of our leader, we are doing our best to prevent such heinous activities in the Senate in the same way that we foiled the tactic of distributing votes to the followers of the N-League candidate in the Daska elections.

Question 4: What is your reaction to being sent to Punjab by the federal government? Was it a punishment or were you given a special mission?

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan:

When I was sent to Punjab by the federal government, I felt as if I had come out of the river in a small water channel. There is no question of punishment. My hands are as clean today as they were in various positions in the federation. The advantage of living in Punjab is that here I can do full politics of my constituency. Because I think if your constituency is with you then no one in Pakistani politics can beat you.

Question 5: How did you defend the allegations of corruption, illegal recruitment and abuse of power against you when you were sent back from Islamabad?

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan:

All the allegations levelled against me later proved to be false and baseless which was also admitted by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. Giving me responsibility again in Punjab also made it clear that my hands were perfectly clean. Everyone knows that the captain can endure everything but he does not want to keep the corrupt elements with him even for a moment.

Question 6: Federal Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the allegations levelled against him. What were your differences with him?

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan:

There are small differences of opinion in the party. This is the beauty of democracy.

The PTI is a family-like party and the occasional differences between members of the household is a reflection of pure democratic attitudes.

Question 7:

Right, and left political parties have united against the PTI government and started rallies. Will, it put any pressure on the government?

Answer:

The PDM parties that have united against the government were in fact in danger of extinction due to their corruption, money laundering and unpopularity with the people. The pressure was on them and they were forced to fight for their survival. This is the reason why these parties, which have made a very unpopular statement, have organized rallies in order to survive in the media, but the people have rejected every public gathering, including the Lahore rally, proving that Corrupt and looter politicians have no place in politics now.

To another question regarding Aseefa Bhutto, Dr Firdous said that Aseefa Bhutto’s entry into politics is in fact a continuation of the politics of heredity. The PPP leadership has used Bhutto’s name to form a government over the party. Bilawal was made party chairman through a slip and now Asifa Bhutto is also being fielded in politics. Prime Minister Imran Khan came into politics against the same family politics and the transfer of power to close relatives. The people are fed up with this hereditary politics and have voted for the PTI to end the monopoly of a few families on power and politics for decades.

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan reading Pakistan Observer at her office

Answering another question she said Punjab Chief Minister Usman Bazdar is working instead of showing off. He takes immediate action in the department where he sees shortcomings and the head of the department is asked to respond. Police reforms and good governance are part of the PTI’s manifesto. When dissatisfied with the performance of the police, the IG is replaced so that the PTI can make necessary reforms in the system as per its manifesto. The Chief Minister is the Chief Executive of the province and it is his discretion to change any department’s head. ۔ The Punjab government is making difficult decisions to improve governance.

Replying to a question regarding the corruption of former rulers she claimed that the royal family looted billions of the nation and made Pakistan indebted. If there was no corruption then where did these billions of dollars go? Certainly, the money of corruption kept shifting out of Pakistan through Hundi and Pakistan had to take more loans. Today Pakistan is paying Rs. 2000 billion only on interest on loans. The government is assisting agencies in investigating corruption. The cases are in the courts, now the courts have to decide. The NAB is an independent body investigating mega corruption scandals. As far as anti-corruption Punjab is concerned, in our two years, hundreds of times more recovery has been made as compared to the last ten years, while billions of rupees have been relinquished while taking action against the occupation mafia.

The cases against Nawaz Sharif are very strong and as long as there is an honest Prime Minister like Imran Khan, he will never come to Pakistan.

The hoarding mafia is responsible for the increase in the prices of essential commodities, which has its roots in the previous rulers. Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif have their agents in every institution of Pakistan. Former rulers are using their agents to get a chance to point a finger at PTI governance.

The government is cracking down on profiteers and hoarders. Pakistan’s economy and the value of the dollar have stabilized and inflation has come down. But there is still room for improvement, and the prime minister is concerned and steps are being taken to address this immediately.

She replied to another question in this way that the PTI’s focus is on the welfare of the people and not on its own publicity. In the first two and a half years, it has launched numerous public welfare projects, most of which are in the process of completion. In line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Bazdar has launched a number of programs to uplift the middle and downtrodden, including the Brave Elderly Program, Loan Scheme for Skilled Youth, Youth, Farmers and Small Farmers.

The PTI government is taking steps for sustainable development and a stable economy, while in the past, projects were launched to get votes and were nothing but a burden on the people. Our government is strengthening institutions So that they can stand on their own feet and play their role in the development of the country.

The private media do not depend on the government and should not look to the government for financial matters because of its independent policy. The former rulers ruthlessly spent public money on their personal advertisements, which were paid to the media by the PTI government. Our government is giving necessary advertisements to the media but no government official is spending money on his personal advertisement.

Second, the mushrooming of the media has grown over the past few years. The opening of more channels and newspapers further divided the business and reduced the revenue of the media, which led to the expulsion of workers from the media. Like any other industry, media is an industry and the industrialist prepares a business plan keeping in view the profit and loss. The PTI is not responsible for the media crisis, but the lack of a proper business plan.

As far as the dues of media workers are concerned, the Punjab government has paid the dues of the media. The media should also pay the dues of its workers. Workers whose dues have not been paid can apply to the Labor Department. I want to sit down with the Labor Department and the media owners to come up with a mechanism for social security, obligations and dismissal of journalists to protect the rights of media workers, she concluded.

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