The BackBencher: Smells like pre-election spirit in the Sindh Assembly

Published: March 6, 2012

Students from Foundation Public School showed up at the Sindh Assembly on Monday to watch the proceedings. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: 

A group of students from Foundation Public School showed up at the Sindh Assembly on Monday to watch the proceedings. They looked fairly enthused when they walked in, snapping photos (as if the Sindh Assembly session is the Oscars) and chatting excitedly.

They left, boredom evident on their faces, but had they stuck around they would have witnessed not one, not two but multiple screaming matches going on in the assembly simultaneously.

It has become rather fashionable for politicians to express ‘concern’ about the conditions in Balochistan – as if they have just discovered it, Christopher Columbus style – and every party has expressed its concern, solidarity and outrage on the issue.

Not everyone has understood how to be politically correct when discussing the state of the province though. MPA Marvi Rashdi equated the behaviour of Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani’s sons, who allegedly slapped around police officers in DHA last week, with Baloch asking for their rights. “If the Baloch want their rights, they should respect the rights of other citizens too,” Rashdi said, before asking why rich people could get away with any crime in the country.

Screams, shouts of ‘shame’, calls for the remarks to be expunged ensued from the MPAs, led by Information Minister Shazia Marri and Archives Minister Rafique Engineer.

The rest of the ministers were screaming and shouting too, trying to get the chairperson of the Sindh Assembly to listen to them, others alleging all sorts of injustices being done in their constituencies. The chairperson – who takes on the task of chairing the session when the speaker and deputy speaker are absent – tried to get people to settle down. But like the inevitable chaos in a classroom when a substitute teacher shows up and the class prankster decides to show off all his tricks, the MPAs took the moment to shriek their frustration out.

Rashdi went blue in the face trying to explain that her remark wasn’t disparaging to the Baloch, while Marri exploded, asking why the Baloch couldn’t ask for their rights. “I condemn this!” she said, her face red with rage.

While the sentiment from the government ministers may be genuine, where has this outrage been in the past four years while thousands of Baloch have been target killed, tortured and become victims of enforced disappearances at the hands of the state – all on the PPP’s watch?

It was fighting talk, the kind that dominates election rallies and campaigning. The volume will get louder in the weeks ahead, and the sorrows and suffering of beleaguered constituents will also be discovered. Fresh off a successful Senate election, the PPP put on its best promotional face forward on Monday, as Fisheries Minister Zahid Bhurgari stretched out the Question Hour exalting the PPP’s achievements and policies, the law and parliamentary affairs minister managed to pass through several bits of legislation. Grandiose plans were shared, the government was congratulated and the coalition partners were thanked. And they all lived happily ever after.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2012.

More in Pakistan