Being an old resident of Islamabad, I did reach the parliament house in time while sneaking through the streets and roads not cordoned off for fear of Difa-e-Pakistan Council’s march on the capital. Not many members of both houses were yet visible in the building, however. Most of them leave for their hometowns during the weekend and were reported stuck in traffic jams while trying to reach their homes.
Perhaps for the same reason, not more than 30 out of an impressive number of 78 senators who sit on the treasury benches were present in the parliamentary meeting that was held before commencement of the Senate session. Even the majority of those attending the said meeting clearly told their parliamentary monitors that the idea of protecting legislators with dual nationality through a constitutional amendment did not deserve pursuing. They preferred an exhaustive discussion on its draft during meetings of the senate committee concerned. The government was left with no option but to succumb. And it had to do it, especially in view of the tough resistance mounted by the ANP on this issue.
There is no doubt that the ANP had spun very valid arguments against the idea of providing constitutional protection for legislators with dual nationalities. Yet, we have to acknowledge that the prime motive behind their resistance was the fact that the MQM had been demanding the passage of this amendment, and the ANP was in no mood to oblige them just like that. Besides frustrating the MQM with their resistance, the ANP also wanted to convey it to President Zardari that thanks to his deep, personal relationship with Asfandyar Wali, the PPP should stop taking the whole ANP for granted.
After sending of the proposed constitutional amendment to the cold storage, the ruling party and its allies also needed to sell the idea of amending the law that regulated judicial process for dealing with the contempt of court. Most observers feel that the government needed to ‘soften’ this law with the sole objective of weaving some kind of a security blanket around Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
He too had been asked via the attorney general to inform the Supreme Court on July 12 as to how he intended to proceed with the writing of a letter to the Swiss government. The said letter, our apex court strongly feels, will enable the government of Pakistan to locate the alleged millions that Asif Ali Zardari is suspected to have parked in various banks in that country. Gilani refused to write this letter and thus went home as a convict. Things will obviously not be different, if his successor continues sticking to the position Gilani had been maintaining to protect the president.
President Zardari and his aides had been trying hard for the past three days to sell it to treasury members that amendments in the contempt of court law were not being sought only to protect the prime minister. The grand objective was to furnish a broader protection for senior bureaucrats, “sincerely and diligently obeying directives of an elected government.” While the majority of ruling party legislators remained confused on this issue, there came a public statement by the Chief Justice on Saturday. That clearly conveyed that any tinkering with laws covering the matters of the contempt of court would not be tolerated by the apex court. Senator Aitzaz Ahsan rubbed in the same point during the parliamentary meeting of the treasury members of the Senate on Monday and the government seems clearly stuck in dire straits.
With the clear intent of finding a way out, the crafty but friends-to-all Syed from Sukkur, Khurshid Shah, had to approach the PML-N leadership Sunday night. “Let’s get ready for the next election by agreeing to a name who should be the chief election commissioner,” was the operative message of his approaches. The PML-N was doubly delighted to find out that the government was more than willing to appoint Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, a person of impeccable integrity whose name had originally come from the Nawaz camp. A source, savouring active access to Nawaz Sharif, had conceded to me that the PML-N pounced at the offer of Khurshid Shah to “prevent and preempt the sinister game that the usual enemies of the democratic system have been setting for many weeks to get a government of so-called able, honest and patriotic technocrats installed for at least two years.” How and why Asif Ali Zardari was persuaded to concede the fresh election before “March 2013?” I tried hard to get a convincing answer to this question, but no luck. Although a minister insisted that “Gilani’s spirited welcome in Multan had boosted our (the PPP’s) morale. We are now certain that like rural Sindh, the majority of hearts in the Seraiki Wasaib also feel sympathetic towards us.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2012.
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