KARACHI: The poetry-quoting Rauf Siddiqui, Sindh minister for industries, told Sindh Assembly Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza this week that she had “the hardest job in the world, which is to listen”, while he had the easiest one which is “to talk”.
And on Wednesday, Raza proved that even though she looked like she was about to pass out in her seat for want of sleep, she insisted on letting the budget debate run past 1 pm and 2 pm to – gasp! – 3 pm.
But it wasn’t all yawns and yaps. Predictably enough, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) members were on the defensive, full of tributes for the man who recently lost his job as prime minister to proclaiming how much better they were than the ‘other’ parties who storm the Supreme Court. According to the many loud speeches, Yousaf Raza Gilani’s name will be written in “golden letters”, he is a “historic” figure and the PPP is just never going to get justice.
Shehla Raza wasn’t above making a jibe of her own. When she asked Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon to return to his seat in the back row instead of the one he’d appropriated for himself in the front, she quipped: “Look, he didn’t argue. At least someone knows how to respect the speaker’s ruling.”
A word of praise is also due to the finance secretary, or, as MPA Bachal Shah called him on Wednesday, the “budget secretary”.
The man has sat through the budget debate for the past few days, scribbling away notes and occasionally smiling at some of the more hilarious speakers. There was plenty to be amused about on Wednesday. Bachal Shah also said, quite notably, that the poor people in the province had no “heating or cooling during the weather” and Sindh Transport Minister Akhtar Jadoon drew up visions of an oil terminal that – in a twist on roti, kapra aur makan – will have “shops like Hyperstar” and “facilities like McDonald’s”. But the winning speech of the day was Pakistan Muslim League-Functional’s (PML-F) Rana Abdul Sattar’s side-splitting speech that literally had the aisles rolling in laughter.
Sattar was almost like a stand-up comedian and his speech spared no one. On minorities, he asked “What minorities? They’re our brothers. They are a majority”, on the Mohajir province movement he asked “What Mohajirs? People who’ve been here for 60 or 70 years and make speeches in Sindhi aren’t Mohajirs”, and on the oft-quoted need for a police ‘operation’, he stated “We need a surgery, not an operation”. When it came to development, he was quick to remark “We have two ministers from the same constituency – the PML-F’s Jam Madad Ali and the PPP’s Shazia Marri. Please ask Shazia how she travels from Tando Adam to her village. There’s no road there.”
Sattar scathingly described the state of security in Karachi. “We don’t leave our house for five days because we’re scared someone might shoot us. When we get to our village, we leave the gunman and walk freely.”
And the man who was the centre of attention on Tuesday, the PPP’s Sardar Ahmed Ali Khan Pitafi, was found in a huddle with the party’s parliamentary leader Pir Mazharul Haq, who appeared to be taking notes of whatever Pitafi was telling him. Perhaps the full-fledged drumming the PPP received at Pitafi’s hands has had some impact, but will this signal more dissenters emerging from within the aisles? Haq can only hope not.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2012.