After many months of maintaining now on/now off relationship with Asif Ali Zardari, the MQM got out of the central and the provincial governments for one more time two weeks ago. And with the resignation MQM’s Sindh governor , Dr Ishratul Ibad it really looked as if the two had reached a point of no return. More so because Ibad after resigning had flown out of the country and was cooling his heels in Dubai.
A politically naïve PML-N leadership knowingly fell for the MQM antics hook, line and sinker and believing that the resignation of the MQM governor heralded a final break-up between the Muttahida and the PPP led coalition government the PML-N leadership launched its much threatened campaign to build a grand alliance of all the opposition parties to force early elections. And as a first step they requisitioned a sitting of the National Assembly. They seemed to have miscalculated yet again.
Without furnishing a convincing rationale, Ishratul Ibad flew back to the Governor House early this week. But the MQM would still be sitting on the opposition benches in all the houses. The ambiguity of its stance appeared doubly confusing, when both the houses of parliament separately met Thursday evening.
Normally the government does not fix the agenda for an opposition-enforced parliamentary sitting, but as if to dare the opposition the Gilani government went ahead and announced Thursday’s order of the day. That annoyed Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri of the JUI-F, who the government had duly recognised as the opposition leader in the upper house.
It was nothing less than hilarious to notice the JUI -F and PML-N Senators separately staging their respective walkouts agitating the same issue–the opposition’s right to set the agenda for the requisitioned house. The government quickly conceded that the Senate would only discuss what the opposition desired.
The continuing bloody chaos in Karachi was the issue that all wanted to discuss, but the JUI-F and the JI senators thought that by hosting a dinner for the gay and lesbian community in Islamabad, (on the premises that is, in diplomatic parlance, regarded as US territory), and announcing the holding of it via a duly issued press release, the US embassy had violated Islamic traditions and conservative practices of Pakistan. This ‘audacity’ must be discussed as well. And the government had no problems with that too.
In the National Assembly too, there were walkouts, but a bit more focused. In the lower house too the government quickly conceded the floor to the opposition to discuss whatever it wanted. But Karachi and speechmaking on the subject went on and on without making any point. Despite knowing very well that it was the exclusive burden of the opposition to maintain the quorum in a sitting requisitioned by the opposition the leadership sitting across the isle did not appear bothered about the vacant seats on their side.
The confused and rudderless conduct of the opposition, represented in our elected houses, had injected a feeling of despondent desperation among non-parliamentary haters of this government. Imran Khan is about to return from England (where he usually spends the summers along with his two sons who live there with their mother, Khan’s former wife Jemima Khan) to reinvigorate his “save the country by removing the (Zardari-Gilani) government campaign”. A public rally is being planned by the Tehrik-i- Insaf in Faisalabad Sunday. Throughout Ramazan, his party intends to stage a number of dharnas before parliament house to drum up the same message.
He must not be able to deliver on his own, though. No wonder, a former Army Chief, Mirza Aslem Beg had publicly announced to have written a letter to General Kayani. In the said letter, he had bluntly told him that time had come when the Army should move to set up an interim government of technocrats for at least one year, which should hold free and fair elections, after cleansing our politics of corruption and by taking steps for turning the economy around. The incumbent Chief Justice is expected to facilitate and legitimize all such moves, as desired and suggested by Beg, while invoking article 190 of the Constitution.
It was pathetic to see so many of “our elected representatives” accosting various journalists, considered ‘well connected’ in different corners in parliamentary lobbies to find out about “why Beg wrote this letter.” It never crossed their minds that they had all the power to find a fit answer to their questions from none other than Beg himself. They should invoke the privilege clauses and make him appear before the house. If a serving DG ISI could take their questions, not once but twice in-camera sessions, what is so special about a retired army chief?! And if the CJ so desired he could also ask general Beg to appear before him and answer why a treason case should not be instituted against him for inviting the Army to subvert the constitution.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2011.
More in PakistanTug-Of-War: To sit or not to sit on opposition benches