The chief minister, once again, was the star of the Assembly on Monday. Shahbaz Sharif was the subject of a two-hour debate led by the Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz.
On Friday, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah had assured Riaz that Sharif would wrap up the debate on the PIC scandal. You would think the two hour long debate yesterday was regarding that tragedy. Wrong. The chief minister was absent and Riaz harangued Sanaullah for his boss’s absence.
Sanaullah, however, had a classic response. Apparently, the standard of debate is such that the chief minister could not come and listen to it. The law minister asked how the chief minister could attend a session where the members were shouting at one another.
The debate had begun with Sanaullah saying his boss would turn up and that the Leader of the Opposition should start the debate. Riaz reminded the treasury that they needed to honour their promise regarding Sharif’s presence. The real issue was never debated, instead we got two-hours of why the chief minister was needed and why he could not be there.
Maybe it has slipped Sharif’s mind that the same house gave him a vote of confidence four years back. Maybe someone needs to gently remind the chief minister that he has an obligation to the house. If Sharif cannot debate his plans and formulate strategy in the house then where else?
The chief minister has not been seen in the house since the budget session. That would be six sessions without Sharif. Dengue came, played havoc with lives and went, the law and order situation deteriorated, the sugar cane farmers suffered and fertiliser was in short supply. None of these crises was enough apparently for Sharif to head to the house.
Riaz had an apt analogy. He said Pervez Musharraf did not address the joint session of the Parliament for four years. Musharraf had said that until parliamentarians learnt to behave, he would not set foot in the assembly, Riaz recalled. The chief minister seems to be employing the same logic. Authoritarianism is not about what one wears, it’s a mindset.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2012.