The PML-N continues to spin whatever stories to project itself as the one and only opposition party in this country. Yet, the fact remains that in spite of having a solid chunk of 90-plus members in the national assembly, it miserably failed to convincingly retard, forget blocking, passage of the budget by a government “led by a convicted prime minister.”
By Thursday noon, the finance minister had already rushed through extracting approval with nonstop ayes from the treasury benches for exactly 151 demands made by various ministries for the next fiscal year. Until my writing this column, he was getting approval for overspendings made by various government departments during the last fiscal in the name of supplementary grants. And Hafeez Sheikh succeeded to get things done on a fast track despite the constant huddle of the PML-N legislators around the Speaker’s dais. He also acted deaf to ear-piercing chants that called for resignation from a ‘convicted Gilani’ and suggestions of “go-Zardari-go.” We can safely predict that somewhere by late Friday, the Zardari-Gilani government would get through all ropes that a directly elected house sets for passage of budgetary proposals. What next? That remains the question, however.
The PPP and its allies have been clearly split in two camps in this regard. A majority of them believed that after getting his budget passed, Yousaf Raza Gilani should have resigned. In a parliamentary democracy, passage of the budget by a government also amounts to expressing confidence in the prime minister. Still, the camp I refer to believed that he should exit the center-stage after budget passing to help develop some working understanding between the two mainstream parties in the specific context of holding fresh elections.
The PML-N doesn’t want to deal with a ‘convicted prime minister.’ Through the speech that one of its star spin doctors, Ahsan Iqbal, had delivered on budgetary proposals in the national assembly, however, the PML-N expressed the intent of doing business with a prime minister replacing Gilani in ‘long term interest of stabilising the democratic system in Pakistan by agreeing to transitional arrangements for moving from one elected government to another.” Many cool but seasoned members of the PPP and its allied parties had started telling their leaders to consider the “positive message conveyed through Ahsan, somewhat seriously.” Even Gilani was reported as if not rejecting the same idea outright. Many reliable visitors to his office and residence for one-on-one meetings late last month rather claimed that he had been sending ‘positive signals’ in the same context.
But then the Arsalan-Riaz saga erupted in public with an explosive bang and since then, the same Gilani has started telling his friends and colleagues in clear words and firm tone that instead of resigning, he would prefer to go home in case the Supreme Court decided to invalidate the Speaker’s ruling over the question of his disqualification after being sentenced for not obeying the court orders. He visibly wanted to go home as a “victim of extra-parliamentary (the Judiciary in this case) forces.”
Increasingly, most of the ruling coalition members have also come closer to his thinking. They want the Supreme Court to make the ‘first move’, although the optimist types from among them also believe that the Arsalan versus Riaz drama with all the ingredients of attention-grabbing theatre has brought a ‘paradigm shift.’ Many have rather seemed believing that whatever the end result, the said drama had dented the absolute moral edge that the Supreme Court had been savouring since the restoration of Iftikhar Chaudhry as its Chief Justice.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2012.