Without making a value judgement, any keen observer of political games will surely be interested in finding out whether a celebrity with obvious ambitions of a populist, Imran Khan, can stage a revolution in Pakistan via inciting and harnessing public anger against drone attacks.
It, however, becomes unbearable when some legislators try using the same issue for mere point scoring, or worse settling personal scores with opponents in home constituencies.
Akhundzada Behrawar Saeed, a MNA from the tribal areas, appeared to be doing the same during Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly. Saeed had posted a privilege motion against Bajaur’s political agent.
Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi asked federal minister for states and frontier regions (Safron) Shaukatullah to deal with it after disposing off regular agenda items. Shaukatullah did not support or oppose the motion on merit and expressed the desire that Saeed allow him to settle the matter through jirga-type consultation. Saeed did not want that and opted to press for his motion with a thundering speech.
Since returning to the house, Saeed has been sitting on PPP benches. Participating in various television talk shows, he never forgets to boast his diehard loyalty to the party. Yet, he virtually jolted me by claiming that whenever he speaks against drone attacks in the NA, the political agent turns the heat on him. Instead of telling the house about the details of the ‘pressures’ on him, Saeed switched his ire to an unnamed “flour mill owner” in his area. This owner, he said, had been a virtual pauper some years ago and sold whatever he had to leave for the US. “Only after spending three months in the US,” Saeed said, “this mill-owner returned with bags full of disposable cash.” Saeed also claimed that the mill-owner must have been working for those outfits “who furnish real time and actionable intelligence to the CIA, above and beyond our national security agencies”. Kundi forwarded the privilege motion to the relevant committee and also asked Nadim Afzal Chan to deal with the matter urgently.
PPP benches seem callously oblivious to this reality. The president, prime minister and even the otherwise silent army chief have gone public in criticising drone attacks. How can a small time political agent dare to arm-twist an elected member of a sovereign house, that too from the ruling party, for speaking against drone attacks? It appears that Saeed has developed a personal problem with a Bajaur mill-owner and is now employing the populist rhetoric against drone attacks to get even.
The ruling party should also try to understand the misery of the residents of the tribal areas after Saeed’s wailing, who claims to be helpless in facing the combined maneuvering of a political agent and a US-sponsored mill-owner.
I sat in the press lounge and listened to Saeed’s entire speech but at the outset of the sitting, all reporters covering parliamentary proceedings walked out of the gallery to express solidarity with reporters and cameramen of two news networks who were brutally beaten by security guards of the Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL). Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Sumsam Bokhari, who Kundi had sent to pacify the journalists, failed in their attempt. Finally, a few minutes before prayers, Kundi again asked the interior and information ministers to bring the journalists back to the gallery.
Most PPP back-benchers, especially those who have been winning and losing elections from Punjab for generations, are obsessed with finding out how
close their party is to finalising a deal with the Chaudhrys of Gujrat.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ