National Assembly’s missing agenda

he session went on for two weeks, but hardly a sitting focused on the agenda.

Nusrat Javeed May 03, 2011

The 30th session of the National Assembly was summoned to discuss President Asif Ali Zardari’s address in the joint session of the parliament last month. The session went on for two weeks, but hardly a sitting focused on the agenda. Most of its time was wasted in desultory agitation over unimportant matters, exclusively connected to members’ home constituencies.

The PML-N tried to bolster its pretensions of a ‘real opposition’ on and off with anti-government chants, token walkouts and black bands tied around arms of party members. Yet, to keep up appearances, someone from the government was supposed to wind up the “discussion on the presidential address.”

Customarily speaking, this should have been done by the prime minister. As someone who carries forward the government-initiated business in the parliament, the law minister was the obvious next. The recently appointed Maula Bux Chandio however surprised the press gallery by taking the position that for not feeling conversant with Urdu, he felt shy to speak. The deputy speaker then looked for the ever-friendly Syed Khurshid Shah who is often willing to speak for the government on almost every issue. He was missing from the house and the burden of delivering the winding up speech fell on Mian Manzoor Ahmed Khan Wattoo.

This text-book specimen of Joiyas from Trans-Sutlej, widely acknowledged for having hardened DNA as a result of surviving in adversarial circumstances, consumed more than an hour in speaking. The operative part of his speech made me yawn for it was stretched beyond point: “From an ordinary jawan to senior commanders, the Pakistan Army has never felt so comfortable and satisfied with any government,” as it seems these days with the PPP-led coalition.

After getting tired of over-selling this particular notion, Wattoo felt no shame in proudly counting the ‘historical achievement’ of the Zardari-Gilani government in “strengthening the parliament and conceding more autonomy to the provinces” via the 18th amendment and NFC awards.

Disregarding Wattoo’s monologue, most of the PPP legislators were seen busy whispering to each other, huddled in various clusters. Everyone was so visibly anxious to find out as to what had really been decided during the working dinner that President Zardari hosted for Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain a day before. None of the PPP MNAs were invited to that dinner, including the prime minister while what was more intriguing to many diehard jiyalas was the presence of a real estate tycoon from Rawalpindi. They were doubly astonished after realising that he not only facilitated the long drawn out negotiations between the Chaudry and Zardari camps, but also behaved like ‘a guarantor’.

My sources claimed that “anytime next week,” PML-Q nominees will take oath as ministers. At least five were named as “almost confirmed” in this context. Faisal Saleh Hayat’s inclusion is however not confirmed. President Zardari is very bitter about him for he ditched the PPP after returning to the National Assembly in 2002. The Chaudhries had to do a lot of convincing for his induction in the cabinet. Doing so, Chaudhry Shujaat kept telling the Zardari camp that Faisal was the first among those who said no to General Musharraf when the former president asked Chaudhry Shujaat to leave the position of the party president after losing the ‘family seat’ of Gujrat during the 2008 election. The late Sardar Farooq Khan Leghari too opposed the suggestion.

And hence Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain feels too obliged when it comes to these two. Far more important to me however is the question: Is Wajahat Hussain (Shujaat’s younger brother) really going to the Lahore Governor House? If yes, then we should also try imagining the time when the PPP would make another attempt to take away the throne from the Sharifs. Could this be in coming September, when Bilawal Zardari Bhutto is also scheduled to take up politics as a fulltime job?

Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2011.


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