First it was the power crisis, now it is the Karachi violence.
Parliament’s much-anticipated foreign policy review discussion on Wednesday was once again put on the backburner, this time by indignant lawmakers concerned about Karachi’s recent spate of violence.
It was at the fourth sitting of the joint session that National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza invited members to express their views on recommendations given by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS).
The debate began, but was brief.
The few views that were expressed were markedly critical. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Osman Saifullah, the first speaker, said Pakistan should refuse the transit of any weapons from the country, and underlined the need for Pakistan-US relations to be based on mutual respect.
Maulvi Asmatullah from a dissident faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) said, “We should make it clear that we cannot sacrifice any more for the US,” adding, that he could not approve of the new terms of engagement with the US.
Meanwhile, MNA Zafar Baig Bhittni from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) said the resolution was akin to providing legal cover to Musharraf era policies, which were being followed by the incumbent government. “The resolution is for change of price, not policy,” said the accusatory Bhittni. He warned that the tribal people would never accept such a resolution.
Some positive feedback came from Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F)’s Syed Muzzafar Hussain Shah, who said that the discussion over foreign policy in Parliament was a “historic occasion.”
Then PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan abruptly changed the topic.
After only four speakers had expressed their views over the PCNS recommendations, Senator Khan rose up on a point of order and revealed that his party’s worker was gunned down by the people who were “telling others to go on strike”.
Mincing no words, the PML-N lawmaker said, “I will say it clearly – Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) workers have killed ours,” while urging the interior minister to catch the culprits.
Haider Abbas Rizvi from the MQM reminded the interior minister that his party chief had given him a “blank cheque” to take action against criminals across the board.
Moments later, Haji Adeel from the Awami National Party (ANP) informed the house that his party’s worker was also killed on Wednesday.
Interior minister has his say
When asked by the speaker to brief the house over the situation, Interior Minister Rehman Malik had a ready explanation. The minister straight away held a delay in the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act responsible for the volatile law and order situation. Afterwards, he enumerated several other factors including transportation of arms from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) to Karachi and the presence of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban, and said he can give a comprehensive briefing in an in-camera session.
“I am doing my best,” he added.
The speaker, however, remained unimpressed, asking the minister to “please be specific”. Afrasiab Khattak from ANP was no less sceptical, saying, “We have been hearing the minister making such statements but there is no result.” Haji Adeel held a similar view, adding that the minister should speak the truth, while dismissing his claim of arms transportation from K-P. Where are those 70,000 [missing] containers of NATO arms, he countered. Malik tried to assure an increasingly vocal house that he would bring every killer to justice, but the irked lawmakers remained dissatisfied.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2012.