Sherry resigned after exchanging hot words
17 March, 2009
ISLAMABAD: Insiders have now given the sequence of the dramatic events, which led to the resignation of a defiant Sherry Rehman followed by elevation of Qamaruz Zaman Kaira as the information minister.
Sherry had developed a serious problem with Rehman Malik after she felt that he was encroaching upon her powers and trying to run her ministry. As if this was not enough, Sherry and Rehman Malik exchanged hot words in the presence of their colleagues, when one of the ministers, in a lighter tone, passed an indecent remark about their simultaneous arrival at a particular gathering.
Rehman Malik was said to have told the minister, who passed that remark, that Sherry Rehman was his “Aapa” (elder sister). This comment of Rehman Malik, which meant that Sherry was older than him, greatly provoked Sherry, who could not hold herself and passed serious comments against Rehman Malik about his old age. Both the ministers then exchanged hot words.
This occurred in the backdrop of concerns Sherry Rehman had about the regular interference in her ministry by Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Rehman Malik as she thought they were running the show on her behalf.
Sherry had told her colleagues in the government that she would resign if the government resorted to crackdown on the media. This resolve of Sherry was published in newspapers. In this background, the transmissions of Geo were banned on the orders of President Zardari. This move greatly disturbed Sherry.
She made a late night call to Taseer, but the Punjab governor reportedly snubbed her. He told Sherry that she was hitting the wrong man, as the things, which she was accusing him of doing, were actually being done by Rehman Malik.
Both Sherry and Taseer also exchanged hot words, as Sherry felt that she was simply being let down and ignored, and these arrangements were not acceptable to her. She believed that irrelevant people were taking important decisions without her knowledge. Even a top Pemra official, who is usually used for arm-twisting television channels on occasions, was quietly flown from Karachi to Islamabad. Sherry came to know about his presence in Islamabad through her own sources in the Ministry of Information.
Once Sherry was convinced that she had become a powerless minister and was being used as a rubber stamp, she decided to resign. She gate-crashed in an ongoing meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at the presidency.
The unannounced entry of Sherry Rehman greatly surprised both the president and the prime minister, as they were supposed to talk one-on-one. However, a furious Sherry told both of them that she needed to talk to them on some important issues.
Gilani was said to have tried to tell an agitated Sherry that their meeting was going on and it would be appropriate for her to wait for some time. But, a determined Sherry said she just needed five minutes.
Before Gilani could say anything, an uneasy Zardari abruptly told Sherry: “OK, please start talking, as you have five minutes.” To the surprise of both of them, all of a sudden, Sherry Rehman dropped a bombshell and said: “I am resigning from my ministry.” Even before Sherry could explain the reasons behind her dramatic decision, Zardari, made a crisp comment: “OK, Sherry, your resignation has been accepted. You may go now.”
Later, Sherry Rehman, along with her husband Nadeem Hussain, met Gilani at the Prime Minister House. Gilani was said to have offered Sherry to become the women’s development minister after her resignation from the Information Ministry. But a genuinely hurt Sherry told him that the shifting of her ministry would bring more shame to her.
The media circles lauded the decision by Sherry to call it a day. This was a rare development in Pakistan where nobody wants to give up power and position. A senior journalist said Sherry created respect for the journalist community.
Meanwhile, a meeting started in the Prime Minister House about who should be the new information minister. The names of Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, Dr Babar Awan and Khursheed Shah were considered.
Sources said President Zardari conveyed to the prime minister that Senator Waqar Ahmed would be a suitable choice for the slot.Gilani, however, did not agree, as he believed the young man from the NWFP was not a proper choice for such a sensitive job in the given explosive situation.
The name of Dr Babar Awan was also dropped after it was learnt that he was hospitalised and the government could not wait for him to recover, keeping the fast changing political developments in view. The name of Khursheed Shah was also rejected by President Zardari.
Finally, the sources said, a consensus was reached on the name of Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, who was considered to be more vocal, articulate and logical in his conversations. It was decided that Kaira might be a better choice, as his performance on the television talk shows had been much better than the rest of his PPP colleagues and his cool temperament might help the government deal with the media in a better way.
Moreover, it was also believed that the PPP government needed someone like Kaira, who might not object to regular interference in the affairs of his ministry by Rehman Malik and Taseer, who were said to be dealing with the media-related issues through Pemra.