Tuesdays that come during a National Assembly session are reserved for private initiatives in legislation. To motivate and facilitate our representatives for legislative work of their preference, the sittings on this day are also fixed in the morning.
Instead of focusing on any issue of utmost national importance, however, most members during the Tuesday sitting remained busy in crying over the lack of burial spaces for Muslims in Islamabad.
Khurram Wattoo, the minister concerned kept assuring them that thanks to imaginative advance planning, the city administrators had ensured provision of appropriate space for graveyards for the next 20 years.
Considered in the context of the law of probability, Wattoo’s statement satisfied people of my age sitting in the press gallery, but the legislators continued agitating over the presumed lack of space for graves in Islamabad.
They were doubly upset over reports that four vehicles, specifically designed to carry dead bodies to the graveyard, mostly remained out of order or not fit to serve. The dysfunctional status of coffin carrying vehicles was then placed against the fleet of luxurious cars which accompanies the presidential and the prime ministerial entourages.
Only in the concluding moments of the Tuesday session, the PML-N attempted to discuss something related to the here and now. Khawaja Saad Rafique stood on a point of order and delivered a dispassionate speech with the clear intent of justifying his party’s boycott of the commission that the government had established to facilitate creation of a new province in territories falling in Southern Punjab.
Saad is a street-hardened type that his party mostly uses for creating rabble-rousing scenes in the assembly. Probably getting tired of his reputation the member from Lahore has started behaving statesmanlike for some months. As an astute player of vote-seeking politics, he needs no tutor for discovering that while heading towards the next election, the PPP is desperately trying to hijack and sentimentalise the issue of Seraiki Wasaib. The PML-N could not afford to oppose the demand for the creation of Southern Punjab, but the tactics that were adopted by some bureaucratic favorites of Shahbaz Sharif for denying any credit to the PPP regarding the said issue have backfired. Most Seraikis now feel that their grievances and aspirations were deliberately disregarded by the Lahore-centric party of the Sharifs.
Khawaja Saad Rafique sounded cunning though articulate while attempting to make us believe that his party must not be seen as the one and only hurdle in creation of a new province for people living in the Seraiki Wasaib.
Legislators from his own party, however, sabotaged his script. Many of them vied to snatch the chair’s attention and provoked the ruling party backbenchers with cheap point scoring. All of them hurled figures to sell the story as if Shahbaz Sharif-led government in Lahore had been rather generous in doling out unprecedented patronage to South Punjab.
Hardcore reporters were not interested to watch and report sycophantic speeches. Almost each of them was found trying hard to get some access to either Khurshid Shah or Ishaq Dar. Both of them were reportedly scheduled to meet sometime Tuesday to finalise the name of the caretaker prime minister to be. I failed to reach either of them.
But after talking to some persons with active access to insiders of the PML-N and the PPP camps, one can report with confidence that neither Asma Jehangir nor Mehmud Khan Achakzai were ever considered for heading the caretaker government. Their names were deliberately floated by both the PPP and the PML-N to confuse reporters. Some reporters did pounce at the bait without realizing that prime minister is a prime minister, even if he or she holds the office for specified days and that too with the assignment to hold a general election. Even as the caretaker, a prime minister savors the authority and rights of a chief executive. When it comes to dealing with business of the state and the government the buck stops at his or her office. Like it or not, we continue to live in a national security state and whimsical persons of integrity like Asma or Mehmud Khan Achakzai are not trusted in such a state. After talking to various sources Tuesday, I rather see more chances of Senator Raza Rabbani. The PML-N has already dropped heavy hints for accepting him as the interim prime minister.
Asfandyar Wali and his party love him. His conduct as the chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security had also pacified, if not pleased, the elite in Khaki. Yet, the question: does President Zardari feel comfortable with his name?
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2012.