Pervez Khattak is our elder, party respects him: Hammad Azhar

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar, referring to Pervez Khattak’s “heated argument” with Prime Minister Imran Khan, on Saturday said that “Pervez Khattak is our elder, the party respects him and he has every right to speak”.

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad, he said that he had neither spoken to Khattak nor had any argument with him and that the senior leader had never even taken his name.

Khattak had raised the issue of gas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with Prime Minister Imran Khan, upon which the prime minister asked me to give a briefing, which I did, Azhar explained.

He added that the prime minister told Khattak that using data provided by the energy minister, a decision would be made in the national interest.

Azhar told the media that PTI follows democratic traditions, not just in the parliamentary party meetings, but also in cabinet meetings. 

“We are truly a democratic party, where everyone is allowed to speak openly,” said Azhar, adding that PTI is not dynastic “where the child of the party leader comes and sits down and people stop breathing,” he said.

Reports are rife on media about Khattak exchanging heated words with PM Imran Khan, as well as expressing displeasure at Azhar, during the party’s parliamentary meeting on Thursday.

According to sources, the former chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told the premier that “we made you the premier through our votes”.

However, in a statement, Khattak clarified that Imran Khan is his “leader” and he has no disagreements with him.

The PTI parliamentary meeting was called to take the party’s leadership into confidence regarding the supplementary finance bill which was passed by the National Assembly that day.

Tax collection and export

Also briefing the media on other matters, Azhar said that the current government has implemented historic reforms in various sectors, including energy, in order to move the country forward, Radio Pakistan reported.

He said that the reform process will continue in the coming months and years to ensure sustainable development.

According to Azhar, “better policies are increasing our tax collection and exports”. He said that the government intends to collect Rs6,000 billion in taxes during the current fiscal year, while exports and remittances will each “exceed $30 billion”.

The energy minister said that the government is also working to improve the electricity transmission system.

He claimed that by 2030, 70% to 80% of the country’s power will be generated from indigenous resources. He said that work on the construction of 10 dams has also begun.

Azhar said that Pakistan’s gas reserves are depleting and that the country must seek alternative solutions to meet domestic needs.

Regarding the recently passed bill granting autonomy to the State Bank of Pakistan, the minister dismissed the notion that it would jeopardise national security. He said that the central bank governor, deputy governor, and board of directors would be appointed by the government. The legislation, he claims, will “free the SBP from politicised decisions”.