When Sharjeel Inam Memon strode into the Sindh Assembly hall on Thursday, he had that look that’s only described by a cat that’s just got the cream. The beaming Memon kept sidling looks at the press gallery – where a few cameramen shouted out their congratulations to him – and later in the day, was in the gallery to hear the complaints of cameramen who have reportedly been fired.
Sharjeel Inam Memon’s fiery speeches in support of the president and prime minister have worked out. From the man that fell into disgrace because he was too close to former Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Mirza to getting a second term as information minister. The same cabinet members who would give Memon a cold shoulder were pressing up against him today and offering profuse congratulations, while one MPA jokingly asked when he would be allowed to sit in the “first class” of the assembly – the front row.
And what of Shazia Marri, who has also spent several hours of each day since she became information minister hoarsely defending the government? She was spotted having a rather long exchange with Memon outside the assembly hall before she made an appearance. The game of musical chairs that the information minister position has become has so far seen Memon and Marri take over the job twice. And even though one has heard mutterings that Marri is a better boss than Memon, perhaps he can change that impression the second time around.
The more interesting question is why pick Memon as the Sindh government’s mouthpiece. Is his brand of rhetoric what the government will need when it’s time to escalate attacks on political parties it has fallen out of favour with? Or will the next few months see all of the ‘disgraced’ folk – which insiders whisper are still as close to the party’s top ranks – re-entering the PPP’s fold as it prepares for the next elections?
The new information minister’s smile revealed little, though it was a welcome relief that he didn’t have a post-session briefing like Marri did, which usually meant scribbling notes for an hour in the sun while she held forth on everything from Nawaz Sharif to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
Several MPAs made up for Marri’s quietness on Thursday, and were exceedingly verbose when it came to debating the budget. While Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah kept scribbling in a notebook, some of the suggestions that came forth left some of the MPAs raising their eyebrows. “Instead of giving MPAs Rs60 million, they should get Rs200 million and be in charge of developing their districts,” was one MPA’s idea. May such creative MPAs live long and prosper.
Others were terribly bored with it all. The Minorities Affairs Minister Dr Mohan Lal happily dozed off in the assembly as members quizzed the government during Question Hour and there were yawning members left, right and centre as the day winded to a close. Perhaps Shah can cough up some funds for pillows for MPAs so they’re not too tired out by the budget debate in the days ahead.
The speaker has already threatened that they could “sit for long hours” and if this is the state of MPAs after a four-hour session, perhaps those pillows could come in handy after all.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2012.