Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda’s brash response to a senior journalist’s question led to the cancellation of a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday.
The situation unfolded when Dawn’s senior reporter Khaleeq Kiani questioned the government’s decision to award the Rs300 billion Mohmand dam project on a “single” financial bid of a consortium comprising three firms — Descon, the company owned by the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Commerce and Industry Razzaq Daud, China Gezhouba and Voith Hydro.
The bidding process of the dam was made controversial by the government when it considered the “single” financial bid of the consortium comprising Descon, China Gezhouba, and Voith Hydro, while a consortium consisting of Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), Andritz Hydro and Power China was technically disqualified and its financial bid was not considered.
Read: Bidding process for Mohmand dam project sparks controversy
As the press conference started on Wednesday, reporter Khaleeq Kiani reminded the minister how his party had criticized an LNG deal during the PML-N government on the basis that it was awarded on a single-bid basis.
“Your party had strongly criticized the LNG deal because it was done on the single-bid basis, and now your government has awarded the contract of Mohmand dam on a single-bid basis. How can you say it is legitimate?”
Vawda did not take the query kindly, saying: “I could have expected such a question from Dawn only. I am not responsible for something that happened before my birth.
“How can I be responsible for [those] contracts’ bidding that took place when this government wasn’t in place? Secondly, if you find controversy or want to concoct one, then this is open. You can investigate this as you like it.
“Because you are my elder I am answering this question. If this was someone else, I would not have answered and also set aside the mic.”
At this, the reporters at the press conference objected to his choice of words and started walking out in solidarity with Kiani.
The minister, in a bid to placate the media personnel, immediately issued an apology and struck a courteous tone. “Please hear my request, I apologize to you over this. Journalists are my brothers and friends.”
Vawda’s attempts were to no avail as the reporters and cameramen staged a walkout in protest.
In the same presser, the minister had said he would not be appearing before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee on short notice as “I am not anyone’s baap ka naukar (servant of anyone’s father)”.
“If you call someone to his viewpoint or suggestion, you give him 15 to 20 days; there is a procedure that exists,” he said. “If someone, especially an accused who comes from jail, gives me a one-day notice, [I will not attend].
“I will not allow political point scoring. We will allow PAC to do its job and are bound to inform the PAC. But if my ministry receives a letter on Monday morning asking me to answer on Tuesday, then I will not tolerate this and my ministry will not appear.”
Last year, Vawda was in the news for his fiery temper when he had been involved in a heated exchange with PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi over allegations of water theft.
Vawda had warned that if that if there was theft, he would use “non-parliamentary” language and that his actions would also be “non-parliamentary”.
He alleged that the PML-N had “stolen” from all organizations, to which Abbasi had taken offense, saying: “Look at his tone and his choice of words.”