Before hiring the services of Pakistan Army for launching a multi-pronged assault on troops of the ‘Evil Empire’ deputed in Afghanistan, Ronald Reagan needed some deceptive trappings of ‘democracy’ in Pakistan. General Zia facilitated him by inventing a consultative assembly in the early 1980s.
Instead of being elected, its members were vetted and selected by General Akhtar Abdur Rehman’s ISI. Both Yousaf Raza Gilani and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had started their political career from there. The two had also been members of Muhammad Khan Junejo’s cabinet in the mid-1980s. Perhaps for these connections, Gilani had always been behaving too respectful and accommodating to the Opposition Leader in the National Assembly since elected as the prime minister in 2008. It also is time for me to reveal that President Zardari and his hawkish cronies never felt good about it. No wonder Gilani sounded genuinely hurt while delivering a defiant and unusually aggressive speech in the National Assembly on Friday and you can’t blame him for behaving like this. He was provoked to act the way he did.
After more than two hours of brainstorming, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had led the PML-N members into the house Thursday evening. With the backup support of ear-splitting shouts of “Go Gilani Go,” the opposition leader took the floor to pronounce that after being convicted by the Supreme Court, Gilani had automatically been deprived of the right to sit in the National Assembly. Standing akimbo, he kept telling the ruling party benches that he and his party would not let a ‘stranger’ come to the house. “I dare Gilani to make the attempt of sitting in the prime ministerial seat from now on,” he had vowed arrogantly.
Watching him in action from the press gallery, I also noticed that Haider Abbas Rizvi of the MQM had rushed towards Nisar in visible panic. Their body language clearly conveyed that Rizvi had been trying hard to persuade the opposition leader that the PML-N should not build momentum for an either/or showdown. Nisar mellowed a bit in the end, but perhaps forgot to convey the change of stance to his party chief.
Nawaz Sharif appeared in not one but two successive talk shows from 10 to 12 pm Thursday. The PML-N leader sounded categorical and over-committed while telling the nation through his TV appearances that his party legislators would not let Gilani enter the national assembly and sit in the prime ministerial seat.
I was thus not surprised when Yousaf Raza Gilani entered the house Friday morning. Before his arrival, members of the ruling coalition had taken their seats. Their presence almost matched their numerical strength. Gilani took the floor, primarily to convey the message that he was going nowhere. Being the Speaker of the national assembly, Dr Fehmida Mirza was the one and only person in Pakistan who should decide whether he was qualified to sit in this house. He delivered a long speech to prove his commitment to democratic system and respect for the Constitution etc.
None of the PML-N members dared to enter the house and make any attempt to block the delivery of speech by a “convicted-thus-disqualified leader of the house”. All of them stayed put in the lobby. I have it from impeccable sources that Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan kept approaching many known hawks and asked them to go into house to hoot at Gilani. Hardly a person felt motivated to do so.
Gilani, on his part, didn’t hide his deep down bitterness about the PML-N. With a hurt heart, he kept repeatedly telling the Speaker that while doling out development funds to members of the National Assembly, he had been going an extra mile to oblige the opposition members. He also revealed that on the eve of his appearing before the Supreme Court on Thursday, he had talked to Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on phone and requested him to sit with him to finalise the name of the Chief Election Commissioner. “The opposition leader wished me good luck,” he claimed. Gilani could yet not understand as to why the same Nisar then opted to declare the intent of blocking his entry to the national assembly.
Another very solid point that Gilani made surely deserves clear answer from the opposition. Since Supreme Court’s decision of invalidating the NRO, the prime minister recalled, this Parliament had introduced three comprehensive amendments in the constitution: 18th, 19th and the 20th. All of them were passed without a single negative vote in any of the two houses of Parliament. “If the opposition seriously believed that the president should not enjoy immunity in this country, why didn’t they press for it even for a second while negotiating the drafts of more than a score of amendments in various articles of the constitution?”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2012.
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