It is an established parliamentary practice that the opposition leader of a directly elected house should open general discussion on budgetary proposals. Our God-gifted Republic has a uniquely sovereign parliament, however, and thus operates under special rules. I was not surprised, therefore, when Ahsan Iqbal stood from the PML-N benches to deliver a speech that Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan should have made Monday evening.
I have already reported that saner elements within the PML-N had increasingly started believing that their disruptive efforts to block proceedings of a house led by a ‘convicted prime minister’ were leading them nowhere. These efforts were rather being hit by the eternal law of diminishing utility and time had come to look for other set of tactics for pushing the government on mat.
After intense soul-searching during the weekend, the PML-N finally realised that nonstop noise making during the assembly proceedings would deprive them of the facility of vending their thoughts on dismal state of economy in Pakistan and holding the Zardari-Gilani government responsible for the prevailing groom. Eventually, they decided that each day during the general discussion on budgetary proposals, one of their aggressive speakers should make a lengthy speech for taking on the government. After doing so, he and the rest from the PML-N benches should walk out of the house after usual slogan-chanting.
They also deputed Ahsan Iqbal to open the discussion for another reason: The wily parliamentary handlers of the government could always request Maulana Fazlur Rehman to make the opening speech and this might have led to his gradually ending up as the opposition leader in the National Assembly, who is ‘duly acknowledged’ by the chair. After reaching that point, the Maulana could also get the right to negotiate with the government for the appointment of a new chief election commissioner and later an interim prime minister for a government formed to hold the next election.
Ahsan Iqbal used to be a computer kid of the Jamaat-e-Islami-types once upon a time. He is a brilliant product of Ivy League. Thrashing the budgetary proposals in the National Assembly, however, he could not stay focused and engaging. His speech lacked the smart point scoring and spinning and mostly relied on empty rhetoric. Senator Ishaq Dar delivered a far more ‘technocratic speech’ while doing the same in the Senate.
The press gallery remained deserted anyway. Most of active reporters were anxiously trying to find out when the government would “issue the notification for appointing Rehman Malik as advisor to the prime minister on home affairs.” They strongly believed that the government had to do this to convey it to the apex court that it could not disqualify a legislator on its own and even after doing so cannot stop him working for the government. I was not so keen to chase details of another round of power play.
Most ministers and many ruling party legislators, meanwhile, were far more eager to find out ‘what next?’ regarding the brewing scandal involving the son of a powerful person in this country. Most journalists have been writing and talking about it in their columns and talk shows, but no one ever dared to speak about it out loud.
Your truly have also been hearing insidious whispers in this context for the past ten days. Being a conservative and decidedly coward journalist, I always ask for faultless documents before talking about any scandal, apparently stirred to ruin the reputation of a powerful person. I was never provided any access to such evidence. Discreet silence remains the one and only option, therefore. Although this will not stop me from reporting that Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan remained hyper active to nip the brewing scandal in the bud. He apparently succeeded in doing that, but there always come situations where more loyal types damage you more instead of helping you and I seriously fear that the same had happened regarding the story I am referring to.
Before finishing let me also report that our iconic human rights activists, Asma Jehangir, had received credible threats to his life. Instead of providing her with fool-proof security, the emissary of our over-stretched state kept persuading Asma that she should leave the country to escape the threat. When she vehemently refused to obliged on this count, she was suggested to “buy a bullet-proof car after selling of some land in your possession.” She does not posses such pricy real estate and is now living confined to her home. For how long, however, remains the question?
Published In The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2012.
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