Mostly composed in the face of strong protests by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in parliament, the government finally responded on Thursday by blindsiding the opposition on two key issues: expressing confidence in the embattled prime minister and the creation of a “South Punjab” province.
The opposition raised the roof for a second consecutive day in the National Assembly, but amidst the ruckus the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government managed to pass two symbolic resolutions – one reposing confidence in Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and another one in favour of a ‘South Punjab’ province.
The moves were swift and precise – 32 minutes and the matter was done and dusted.
Later, support for the premier also flowed in from the Senate and the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, with both passing resolutions in favour of the prime minister.
The proceedings started almost two-and-a-half-hours later than scheduled, at 12:25pm, with lawmakers from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chanting “Go, Gilani, Go.”
Once again, they wore black armbands, raised placards, and thumped their desks throughout.
PML-N’s Abid Sher Ali got into a minor scuffle with PPP’s Syed Akhunzada when the opposition surrounded the prime minister’s empty chair. The belligerent Sher Ali also tore papers and threw them at Law Minister Farooq Naek when the latter stood up to table the resolutions.
Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, however, was silent throughout the session and keenly observed his colleagues. But the PML-N’s belligerence was not going to be enough to stop what the government had in store.
Amidst the sloganeering and desk-thumping, and a shower of torn papers, Naek moved the two resolutions that were subsequently passed by National Assembly Speaker after voting. The first resolution reposed “complete confidence” in Gilani as “the constitutionally and democratically elected prime minister.”
The resolution commended him for “personally appearing thrice, on being summoned by the Honourable Supreme Court” and appreciated “the firmness and dignity displayed by [him] in upholding the Constitution.”
Reaffirming its belief “in the constitutional procedure for the disqualification of a prime minister,” the resolution said that any other procedure will be considered “unconstitutional.”
The second resolution called upon the Punjab Assembly to amend the constitution to the effect of altering the limits of Punjab, “thereby creating province of Janoobi (South) Punjab.”
The PML-N lawmakers did not take part in the voting process while no other political party opposed the resolutions.
The Upper House also passed a resolution expressing solidarity with, and reposing confidence in, the premier.
The draft of the resolution, which was the same as the one passed in the lower house, was moved by the Leader of the House Senator Jahangir Badar. The resolution passed with a majority vote since the main opposition party, the PML-N, had already announced a boycott of Senate proceedings on Wednesday.
The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly also passed a resolution with a two-thirds majority, extending its support to Prime Minister Gilani.
The Legislative Assembly convened in Muzaffarabad on Thursday and hailed the premier’s efforts “to uphold the Constitution.”
The house, chaired by Speaker Sardar Ghulam Sadiq, also expressed confidence in the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2012.