Out of fear of Imran Khan’s rise and rise on our political scene, the PML-N MNAs are surely going extra miles to prove it to the world that they indeed are the ‘real’ and not a ‘friendly’ opposition of the Zardari-Gilani government. Doing so, they also crossed certain redlines Wednesday while viciously trying to disrupt parliamentary business conducted in the National Assembly by a government led by a “convict thus disqualified” prime minister.
We in the press gallery are too used to such scenes, where opposition members stand on their seats; shout piercing slogans and even flaunt protesting placards. Very rarely they leave their seats to stand before the speaker’s dais and strategically place themselves to block the entry route for a prime minister to his seat. Wednesday, they did all this and one incurable agitator from their ranks, Abid Sher Ali, even went to the speaker’s chair and threw the booklet of written questions and their answers at her secretarial staff.
Doing this, the PML-N hawks hardly cared considering that in future there could be times when nominees of their party would be sitting in chairs that are presently held by Dr Fehmida Mirza and Yousaf Raza Gilani.
I have it from impeccable sources that a substantive number of doves from within the ruling alliance tried hard to persuade the government to prorogue the house to preempt the building of disruptive momentum in the National Assembly. They feel that detailed judgment on the prime minister’s conviction and possible filing of an appeal against it may help cool tempers down. Hardened parliamentarians like Khurshid Shah firmly oppose this suggestion. They insist that the government must continue holding assembly sittings in business-as-usual a manner.
Notwithstanding the confusion regarding managing the chaos in National Assembly proceedings, a definite set of well-connected ministers were found as if waiting for another Supreme Court judgment “to be announced on May 3”. I can’t figure out as to why and how, but the same set of ministers claimed that the judgment they anticipated would censure the prime minister for not implementing various orders on NRO-connected issues in “clear and punitive terms.”
The visible ambiguities left in the short order of April 26 had helped the legal eagles of this government to generate the feeling as if Gilani had not been asked to leave the prime minister’s office at the earliest. Such space may no more be available after the expected judgment.
No wonder, at least two ministers were saying it out loud for the benefit of journalists of their belief that the prime minister should immediately put in his resignation, if the Supreme Court announced something on the lines that they had been imagining. President Zardari does not agree with this kind of thinking, however. He feels that getting his nominee elected as the new prime minister from this National Assembly will be very taxing for his government. He wants that Gilani and his team should stay until presentation of the next year’s budget and its passage from this assembly, by all means. Perhaps he could yet not realise that Hafeez Sheikh is not feeling too motivated to finalize the budget. He had gone to Washington to extract some assuaging promises from the World Bank, etc. Nothing concrete was offered to him. Often, the Foreign Office babus of Pakistan also frustrated him by not coming to a few meetings with Americans and donors, both here and in Washington. The finance minister rather feels himself a helpless victim of turf war between the ministry he heads and the Foreign Office. The crucial reality, however, is that the US is not happy with the delay that Pakistan’s parliament maintained while building consensus on new terms of engagement with Washington and its allies. Islamabad is not even getting the much pressed ‘apology’ that Washington was once willing to offer publicly and through none other than Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, on the eve of Osama’s first death anniversary, President Obama flew to Kabul and signed a long-term deal with Afghanistan which essentially conveyed that his country was not going to abandon that country for at least another decade. Things between the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan are ‘trilateral’ no more and many diplomats in Islamabad are now waiting for closing of the Af-Pak desk in Washington. If that happens, Pakistan will be put in the South Asian basket at Foggy Bottoms and India savors the lime light there. The last minute cancellation of an appropriately scheduled and choreographed visit of some high-level civil and military visitors from Washington Tuesday had also baffled many in the government of Pakistan. Yet, the Zardari-Gilani duo continues to believe that no one would dare replace them in this season of virtual disconnect and deepening mistrust between Washington and Islamabad. Their government should continue to muddle along.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.