–SAPM on Digital Pakistan Tania Adrus was made to sign resignation letter by PM’s Principal Secretary Azam Khan
–PM’s aide on health Dr Zafar Mirza also ‘quits’ over criticism on dual nationality
–Sources claim both SAPMs had failed to defend themselves against charges of conflict of interest, drug price hike
ISLAMABAD: Tania Aidrus, special assistant to the prime minister on e-governance and head of the much-touted Digital Pakistan Vision initiative, and SAPM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza on Wednesday announced to resign from her post citing recent criticism leveled against them and the government due to their dual nationality.
However, informed sources claimed that both SAPMs were forced to step down from their positions due to a host of reasons. Two notifications issued by the Cabinet Division said Prime Minister Imran Khan had accepted both Aidrus and Mirza’s resignations.
Sharing her resignation letter on Twitter, Tania wrote, “Criticism levied towards the state as a consequence of my citizenship status is clouding the purpose of Digital Pakistan. In the greater public interest, I have submitted my resignation from the SAPM role. I will continue to serve my country and the PM’s vision to my best ability.”
Tania left her job of 12 years at Google where she served in various leadership roles, her last one being “Director, Product, Payments for Next Billion Users”, to join Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Digital Pakistan initiative in February, and was appointed SAPM for the same purpose.
Pakistan Today has learnt that this resignation was on the cards for close to two months, which is when Jahangir Khan Tareen was practically ousted from the party due to the sugar crisis probe and was the one who arranged the first meeting between Aidrus and PM Imran last year that materialised into the latter’s vision for ‘Digital Pakistan’.
Sources privy to the development said that PM’s Principal Secretary Azam Khan invited the former SAPM to his office this morning, where PM’s Adviser on Accountability Barrister Mirza Shahzad Akbar was also present. There she was asked to sign the resignation letter.
When Tania protested and asked to speak to the prime minister, she was told that this resignation was not optional, that she had to sign it and the PM would not be able to speak to her. Therefore, while the letter points to criticism on Aidrus’s foreign nationality being the chief reason for her resignation, the actual motives behind her removal are much different.
As confirmed by Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry in an interview, infighting within the PTI between Jahangir Tareen, Asad Umar and Shah Mahmood Qureshi restricted the party from performing well. Tareen’s attempt to limit the role of the bureaucracy in federal government business was reportedly fiercely opposed by Azam Khan. The sugar crisis probe provided an opportunity for an ‘anti-Tareen camp’ to push him out of the party.
Rumours of difficulties between Tania and CEO of National Information Technology Board (NITB) Shabahat Ali Shah are also not unheard of. Sources privy to the progress of Digital Pakistan revealed that there was an expectation from Tania that she would arrange funding from international donors such as World Bank for Digital Pakistan but no such deals were ever finalised. These reasons also contributed to her being removed.
Last month, Pakistan Today published a report in which the role and status of a non-profit organisation by the name of “Digital Pakistan Foundation” (DPF) was questioned as it had on its board Tania Aidrus, Jahangir Khan Tareen and Careem CEO Mudassar Sheikha. That the company was registered as a separate entity with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) exactly one week prior to her appointment as the SAPM, raised concerns of a conflict of interest as the DPF was created to compliment the Digital Pakistan Initiative (DPI) that would come directly under the Prime Minister’s Office, headed by Tania Aidrus. According to a report by ARY, Tania was unable to satisfy the PM on the role and circumstances under which the DPF was created and was therefore removed from her SAPM role.
Pakistan Today made repeated attempts to contact Tania Aidrus and Mirza Shahzad Akbar for comment but failed to get any response.
MIRZA QUITS OVER ‘NEGATIVE’ CRITICISM:
Shortly after Aidrus announced her resignation, SAPM Dr Zafar Mirza took to Twitter to do the same.
He said that he had come to Pakistan on the personal invitation of the premier after leaving the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Due to ongoing negative discussion about the role of SAPMs & criticism on the gov, I choose to resign. Pakistani people deserve a better health care. I have worked sincerely to contribute to this cause. 🇵🇰 will Inshallah emerge out of COVID-19 with a stronger hlth care system.
— Zafar Mirza (@zfrmrza) July 29, 2020
“I worked hard and honestly. It was a privilege to serve Pakistan. I am satisfied that I leave at a time when Covid-19 has declined in Pakistan as a result of a grand national effort,” Mirza said.
He added that he had made the decision over the “negative discussion about the role of SAPMs and criticism of the government”.
“Pakistani people deserve better healthcare. I have worked sincerely to contribute to this cause. Pakistan will Insha’Allah emerge out of Covid-19 with a stronger healthcare system.”
It has yet to be confirmed whether the premier has accepted the two resignations.
However, according to reports, Dr Mirza was also forced to step down from his position.
Sources claimed that Dr Mirza was facing an inquiry regarding the import of medicines and a recent hike in the price of drugs.
“The health official could not satisfy regarding the price hike and had reportedly said that he was not directly responsible for it,” the sources said.
“The prime minister has launched an inquiry into this,” they added, noting that Dr Mirza had earlier offered to quit but was told to resign on Wednesday.
According to the sources, the performance of other special assistants and advisers is also being examined and action would be taken after the review is complete.