Minister of State for Interior Sheharyar Khan Afridi is under fire from within his own party (PTI) government for speaking against Saudi Arabia in a meeting with President International Islamic University, Islamabad Dr Ahmed Yousif Al-Draiweesh.
Some of the close aides of Prime Minister Imran Khan insisted that the premier was not happy with the performance of the state minister for interior keeping in view some recent developments and wanted his replacement.
Afridi had to pay the cost of his utterance against the Saudi government so much that intervention was made at the Prime Minister level and he was asked to pay a visit to Saudi Ambassador Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki to apologise to him. Consequently, Afridi visited Saudi ambassador to clarify his position.
Saudi Arabia was the first country that last month promised to give the PTI-led government a bailout package worth $6 billion to help Pakistan avert a default-like situation.
Last month, IIUI President Dr Ahmed Yousif Al-Draiweesh along with Vice IIUI President Dr Tahir Khalily and some of the senior faculty members held a scheduled meeting with the state minister for interior at the Ministry of Interior. The purpose was to discuss the issue of the delays in visas’ extensions to the foreign students and visa issues of other students studying at the IIUI.
During the meeting, Afridi raised the issue of Pakistani prisoners languishing in Saudi jails and told the IIUI president, who is a Saudi national and is a nominee of Saudi Arabia, to convey his reservations to the Saudi government about the bad treatment meted out to Pakistani prisoners there.
The state minister in a strong-worded message told the president IIUI that Pakistan was annoyed with the bad treatment of its nationals jailed in Saudi Arabia and those Pakistanis who go to the kingdom for employment purposes. The state minister even did not give some space to the president to raise the matter of visas and the meeting ended.
After the meeting, Afridi got uploaded video footage of the meeting on his personal social media page and as a result, the matter was taken up at the highest level of the PTI government.
In the video footage seen by The Nation, Afridi says, “We say that Pakistanis are being treated badly in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries; they are being sent behind the bars and are being deprived of their salaries (for their work) there.” He added: “We would request you to tell (Saudi government) that we are very much annoyed with it and this bad treatment (to our citizens) should end.”
Quoting an example, the state minister said that drug dealers used innocent old people by sponsoring their travelling costs of Umrah and at the same time place narcotics in their luggage and when the Saudi government arrests them; they are hanged without investigation. “Why Saudi government does not hold investigations,” he said, adding that the government of Pakistan was ready to put an iron hand on such dealers. Tell me how many innocent Pakistanis are languishing in Saudi jails, he said.
Pointing out another issue to the president IIUI, Afridi in the video says that the Saudi government stuffs 200 prisoners in a barrack of jail which has actual capacity of 15 prisoners. “Why Pakistanis are being humiliated and white people are ignored,” he questioned. He went on to say that Saudi government used to pay meagre salaries to educated Pakistani youth while on the other side, ‘white men’ are getting hefty salaries. “We ourselves are undermining the Muslims. We don’t want anything from any one; we will give respect to the Saudis but it should give respect to Pakistanis,” the sate minister said.
At the end of the meeting, the state minister again says that tell the Saudi government that they should give respect to Pakistanis; otherwise we are annoyed with it.
A close aide to the Prime Minister Imran Khan wishing anonymity said that the premier was not happy with the performance of his state minister for interior on a number of issues that are being dealt by the interior ministry. He said that the PM wanted his replacement, adding that top hierarchy of PTI’s federal government was also not happy with some interventions of Afridi in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government.
A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry admitted that the state minister had paid a visit to the Saudi ambassador but only stated, “Both sides talked about strengthening relations between the Muslim countries.” He said that it was a scheduled meeting. About the performance, the spokesperson said that a number of cabinet meetings had admired performance of the state minster and the PM considered him one of the top performers among his cabinet members. “We have submitted the performance of the ministry made so far on the PM’s 100-day plan,” he said.
A senior official of the Ministry of Interior said that the PM through independent evaluators had been evaluating the performance of his cabinet members continuously and the state minister was among the top 3 ministers of the cabinet with respect to performance.
By Imran Mukhtar
Courtesy: The Nation