Politics is all about playing tricks to baffle your enemies and please friends. The street-smart duo of Zardari and Gilani is pretty adept in playing this game and they played not one but two ‘trumps’ to harness and bolster their constituency in the National Assembly Thursday.
The sitting was fixed for 10 am, but a big number of reporters kept waiting for more than two hours for it to begin. A sizeable crowd of the PML-N legislators meantime were sitting on stairs to the Speaker’s podium. Wearing black bands on their arms and waving placards demanding the resignation of Gilani, they seemed all set to fiercely disrupt the legislative business for another day.
The ruling party benches looked deserted and most ministers were neither sitting in the hall nor in their respective chambers. No one responsible was available in parliament house to explain why the government was taking so much time for letting the parliamentary business proceed.
In sheer frustration, some of us decided to gate crash into the Speaker’s chambers to find out. After inaugurating an exhibition, she appeared all set to leave for the house. Spotting us she simply suggested that instead of stopping her with questions we had better rush to the press gallery. “Two very important resolutions are to be presented in the house today,” she revealed to send us rushing back to the gallery.
The house started with the usual business. Throughout the question hour, the PML-N howlers kept shouting slogans. Once again the militant-types from amongst them kept standing too close to the prime ministerial chair, with the clear intent of blocking his entry to the house.
Yousaf Raza Gilani didn’t turn up, but immediately after the question hour, Dr Fehmida Mirza left the presiding chair for the Deputy Speaker, Faisal Karim Kundi. Only by hindsight I can now report that it was a clever move. After all since coming to this assembly, he had increasingly emerged as a very vocal supporter of getting his ancestral Dera Ismail Khan out of the control of Pashtun-dominated Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to join the much-cherished “Seriakistan.”
After taking the presiding chair, Kundi instantly gave the floor to Farooq Ahmad Naik, the shrewd minister of law and parliamentary affairs. In the heat of slogan-chanting, the PML-N howlers could not anticipate and prevent the government from springing politically potent surprises. Stonewalling the ear-deafening noises around him with firmly put head phones, Naik hurriedly read two resolutions in quick succession. One demanded the creation of “South Punjab” while the other reposed confidence in Yousaf Raza Gilani as the prime minister of Pakistan.
The cunningly-crafted draft of the first resolution passed the burden of saying yes or no to the division of Punjab to the incumbent provincial government led by the PML-N. The reposing-of-confidence resolution, on the other hand, very subtly asserted in a polite but assertive language that only the ‘sovereign parliament’ of Pakistan could initiate the process of ‘disqualifying’ any of its sitting members. The ruling party loyalists jubilantly hailed the quick passage of two resolutions. That provoked and frustrated some PML-N members. Abid Sher Ali triggered some scenes of feisty scuffles between youthful members from both sides.
It is but obvious that in concrete political terms, the ruling alliance has not even initiated the formal procedure of dividing Punjab through getting a resolution passed on Thursday; provincial assembly of that province is the one and only forum to start it. Yousaf Raza Gilani will still go to “Seriaki Wasaib” with a puffed chest to brag that he had fulfilled the promise of getting a “pro-Seraiki suba resolution” passed from the National Assembly he had been leading since 2008.
The reposing of confidence may not help him much as well if via the anxiously-awaited detailed judgment regarding his disqualification, the apex court clearly suggested so in view of the ‘conviction’ that he already had faced last Thursday. For posterity, though, he now has a document to claim that his possible disqualification through a court order “violated sovereignty of parliament.” While heading towards the next elections, Gilani, his party, and their allies did succeed in spinning stories that may keep their votes intact in their concerned ‘base.’ Not a bad deal, if you think long term.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2012.
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