The PML-N certainly felt defeated and cheated over the baffling surprise that the government had staged for them on Thursday by getting two politically-potent resolutions approved by the national assembly.
Therefore, it felt it needed to react with more vigorous shouting during assembly proceedings the day after. But the government still succeeded in cunningly establishing that the chaos-triggering scenes by the PML-N legislators could not stop it from dispensing substantive legislative business.
A much-awaited and comprehensively drafted bill to create the National Human Rights Commission was passed with loud and repeated shouts of ‘ayes’ from the treasury benches.
Before coming down to dealing with legislative business, however, Farooq H Naik, the federal minister of law and parliamentary affairs, did feel the need to pass some ominous remarks.
“The PML-N will be exclusively responsible, if democracy was derailed once again in Pakistan,” he pronounced in a grim and forewarning tone. The opposition howlers crowded around his seat dismissed his remarks with spirited shouts of “liar-liar.”
But most journalists took them pretty seriously. After leaving the press gallery, many were found trying to locate some well-informed ministers to understand as to why during the last working day of the 41st session of the national assembly, the law minister had to pass some ominous remarks “on the record.”
Did he do this on his own or was he specifically asked by either the president or the prime minister to say what he said?
The sources I trust told me that the law minister was directed to say what he said ‘for the record’ on Friday. He also confirmed apprehensions that the finance minister was yet not clear how to put some sense and credibility in the next year’s budget.
The government had planned to present it in the national assembly in the last week of May. Now, it is thinking of deferring it to early 10 days of June.
The delay is primarily being caused by non-committal and hard-to-get conduct of our friends and allies in Washington. The government had calculated that after passage of guidelines for resetting our relations with the US and its allies by a joint parliamentary sitting early last month, Nato supplies to Afghanistan would be restored. In return, Washington would hasten to clear outstanding bills.
Under the head of Coalition Support Fund, Islamabad expects the payment of more than a billion dollars in this context. The government had planned to spend the biggest chunk of the expected dollars to clear circular debts that were causing long hours of load shedding all across the country.
After ‘achieving’ radical and massive reduction of these hours, the government was too willing to contest the forthcoming elections as “doer and problem-solver, at any time of opposition’s liking.”
To the utter frustration and disappointment of the Zardari-Gilani government, Washington does not seem too keen to get its supplies to Afghanistan restored by Pakistani routes. We are not getting any solid promises on fast track payment of bills related to Coalition Support Fund as well.
Meanwhile, in a move to prevent a repeat of the RPPs debacle and at the same time placate the opposition, during the past two days high level but discreet contacts had been established between the government and the PML-N to speed up the process of the billion dollar worth 3-G auction sans a whiff of financial scandal that had sent many such deals to the courts for closer scrutiny causing inordinate delays in maturing of seemingly profitable ventures or their being thrown out of the window on legal grounds.
After sharing the grim realities of our financial scene, the opposition emissaries are virtually beseeched to facilitate the government in auctioning licenses for introduction of 3-G internet technology in Pakistan.
To ensure the ‘transparency’, the government is even willing to establish a bi-partisan committee with equal representation from the opposition to guide and monitor the whole process of short-listing the bidding companies.
Around a billion dollars are expected from this bidding that the government desperately needs as a security-cushion during the next fiscal. The PML-N has yet to say yes, but a minister sounded hopeful that sometime next week the opposition would be on board for allowing 3-G technology in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.
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