The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) may be in a celebratory mood – given that today their party chief will be the first president to address a joint session of Parliament for a fifth consecutive year.
But the opposition Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) is set to gatecrash.
According to sources, the party will not let the president sail through his address smoothly: Members will thump desks and chant slogans. In fact, the PML-N is said to have assigned six members to deliver speeches without their mikes – and after doing so, the party will walk out, sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune.
According to sources, party president Nawaz Sharif who is in London for the treatment of his wife, has asked leaders of the opposition in the Senate and National Assembly, Ishaq Dar and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, to implement this strategy.
Last year, Chaudhry Nisar wanted to speak on a point of order after the president’s speech – but he was not allowed. After some protest, the PML-N boycotted the joint session. That however was after the president’s speech went by smoothly.
A well-placed source in the PML-N said that, last year, high-ups of the PPP contacted Nawaz Sharif to ask that the address be allowed to go smoothly – which it did. However, this year, the case will be different and Shahbaz Sharif has been drawing out the strategy. The PPP, in the meantime, is still trying to convince Senator Dar to allow the address to go by smoothly.
While there may be no attempt to stop the speech outright – there will be plenty of noise during it. The walkout/boycott will take place just as President Zardari is about to end the speech.
Those tasked with raising the ruckus will include the usual suspects: MNAs Khwaja Saad Rafique, Abid Sher Ali and Hanif Abbasi. They will raise slogans against the alleged corruption of the current government, its failure to implement court orders and bad governance.
According to sources, both Dar and Nisar have called a huddle at noon today (Saturday) just before the beginning of the speech – which is slated to begin at 1.30 pm. At the meeting, party members will be informed of this strategy.
Shahbaz Sharif, meanwhile, has been on the phone, calling members to ensure their attendance, according to sources.
However, the PML-N will not support Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)’s boycott – and has decided in principle to keep its distance.
A majority of PML-N members, while talking to The Express Tribune, felt that the MQM was merely blackmailing the PPP, and could ultimately attend the session, if their demands are met.
PML-N’s Deputy General Secretary Ahsan Iqbal, when contacted, said that the PML-N would record its protest during address within democratic norms – pointing out that the treasury benches would not allow the opposition to speak on issues such as the energy crisis. However, he said the PML-N’s parliamentary party meeting today would decide what line to take during the address. When contacted, Senator Dar replied that he could not comment over the issue as the party would take a final decision today at 12pm.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2012.