Watching the local and global media, one gets the feeling that the average viewer is clamoring to know all possible details of the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden on May 1, after years of an obsessive hunt by US. The directly-elected National Assembly of Pakistan, the country where the operation took place, was almost indifferent to the event and its ramifications Tuesday morning though.
The prime minister did provide an opening for a discussion on the issue through his wishy-washy speech to the lower house of the Parliament on Monday. In response to that, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan put forward questions, worthy of a feisty discussion. In addition, Rehman Malik was almost explicit in suggesting that the PML-N leader once enjoyed complete moral and financial support of Osama Bin Laden. Yet, the next day, members of the house preferred to stay put with regular business.
It was the private members’ day which they wasted in wailing over issues exclusively connected to their immediate constituencies. For most part, they appeared attending an ‘open court’ that deputy commissioners would hold during the colonial era to alleviate concerns of local ‘notables’.
At the onset, though, Maulana Ismatullah from Balochistan did try to stir some action in Bin Laden’s name. Through a point of order, he requested the deputy speaker to allow him to offer ‘Fateha’ for his soul. Faisal Karim Kundi needed time to decide and taking advantage of his confusion, Maulana raised his hands and started to recite the relevant verses. Interestingly, while around forty members from various parties were present in the house, not more than three joined in. This looked pathetic and farcical, especially when placed in the context of the bombastic rhetoric that representatives of our religious-right unleash when discussing Bin Laden on television talk shows.
Instead of house proceedings, most members were interested in finding out whom and how many would take oath as ministers in the afternoon. PPP legislators were most anxious; most of them were taking it for granted that people like Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nazar Gondal and Raja Pervez Ashraf would be re-adjusted in the cabinet this time around. Many also hoped that after holding a one-on-one with President Zardari, Sherry Rehman would also stage a comeback. The still vacant foreign ministry was expected for this articulate journalist-turned-politician. Recalling that Faisal Raza Abidi was summoned back to Pakistan by the president within hours of his landing in Panama around a month ago, some also expected at least a state ministry for him.
Nothing of the sort happened at the end. Only three from the MQM were inducted to the cabinet and now it is almost obvious that ministerial aspirants from amongst PPP backbenchers will have to wait until the passing of the forthcoming budget. Today’s induction also indicates that the Zardari-Gilani government will be able to sail through the passing of the budget.
Meanwhile, the incessant vendors of stories of doom and gloom have pinned their hopes on Nawaz Sharif once again. After spending two months abroad for medical reasons, he quietly landed in Lahore last week. He spent all of Tuesday consulting his aides and legislators and is now scheduled to address a press conference in Islamabad Wednesday afternoon. People close to him kept telling me that the PML-N leader was all set to bounce back on political centre stage by putting very ‘upsetting questions’, all related to the Abbottabad operation. I have my doubts, though.
In spite of savouring the unprecedented majority in the National Assembly of 1997-9, he suffered Kargil and its fallout. He needs no tutor to discover who the real commander is when it comes to protecting the sovereignty of the “sole atomic power in the Muslim world.”
His bitterness, gathered over the years, often provokes him to take ‘them’ head on, but when it comes to the killing of Osama, it is not just ‘them’. Far more crucial are the strategic priorities and the long-term agenda of the ‘sole superpower of these days.’ I expect nothing but usual thundering and ‘patriotic bluster.’
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2011.
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