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ISLAMABAD: The government and opposition, on Friday traded barbs over Prime Minister Imran Khan’s absence from a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security the other day, after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry claimed that the opposition leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, threatened to boycott, if premier attends the moot.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb have disputed the earlier claims by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry that the prime minister had skipped the special briefing by the top military leadership to the parliamentarians following the PML-N president and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif conveyed ‘reservations’ to NA Speaker Asad Qaiser.

The minister said the premier was willing to attend the meeting but a message from Shehbaz Sharif had been conveyed to the Speaker that the opposition would stage a walkout, if the premier attends the meeting.

“Prime Minister, then decided that there is no need of a walkout and you people can attend and I won’t come,” Chaudhry stated, while quoting the prime minister to have told the ministers.

A spokesman of the National Assembly Secretariat also clarified that the prime minister was always willing to attend the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee and “the only reason of his not coming to meeting was reservations conveyed to the Assembly Secretariat by some opposition leaders.”

“A news item being telecast on media regarding non-participation of Prime Minister of Pakistan in the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security held on 1st July 2021 is factually incorrect,” the NA Secretariat spokesman further stated.

Earlier, responding to the information minister’s claims, the PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, hit back accusing the minister of being a ‘propaganda machine’.

She questioned how Shehbaz Sharif could refuse to attend when the prime minister was not even a part of the meeting.

She added that the opposition leader has not sent any message to anyone. “Fawad Chaudhry is lying. He is a propaganda machine,” she alleged. She also challenged whether the minister had any official document or evidence to verify his claims.

“Did Imran Khan Sahab not attend issues of national importance and security at Shehbaz Sharif’s behest [in the past]?” she questioned.

Speaking at a news conference, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also rejected the claim made by the information minister.

When asked whether the prime minister skipped the meeting after Shehbaz Sharif’s reservations, Abbasi responded sarcastically, saying: “Yes, this is indeed correct. We order the prime minister on what work he has to do.”

He said Fawad Chaudhry was not aware that the premier was not a part of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.

“Did he not see his [PM’s] chair empty?” asked Abbasi.

“Fawad Chaudhry had forgotten that the prime minister didn’t need to attend the meeting since he had already received the briefing and agreed with it. Though, if he came then it would’ve been a very good thing,” the former premier further stated.

He further asked whether the minister forgot as to who had ordered the ‘attacks’ on opposition leader in the National Assembly during his budget speech.

“Government ministers and MNAs told us that a direct message came from the prime minister to not let Shehbaz Sharif speak in the Assembly,” he further alleged.

Abbasi also lashed out at the government for purchasing LNG for power generation, claiming that the incumbent government was buying the natural resource at an expensive rate due to their ‘incompetence.’

He alleged that the federal ministers have been ‘lying’ about the country’s electricity shortfall.

He also criticised the government for its import of furnace oil due to power shortages.

In 2018, he added that the cabinet had decided that furnace oil will not be imported.

“Today after creating an LNG shortage, furnace oil is being imported,” Abbasi added.

He claimed that the PTI government had no planning for LNG and that was the main reason behind the import of furnace oil.

He also alleged that some people in the present government were taking Rs1 billion commission on each furnace oil ship coming into the country.

He further alleged that the government was buying furnace oil 20 percent higher than the market rate.

He also lashed out at the government for changes at the Ministry of Energy, saying that when a new minister comes, a new story emerges on the problems being faced by the energy sector.

He also called upon the government to explain to the nation the causes behind electricity load shedding.

“Ministers do not know which plants run on furnace oil and which ones on the LNG,” Abbasi added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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