Just as the National Assembly was rushing through a listless question-hour on Thursday evening, a crowd of barely 200 people desperately tried to look like a ‘charged multitude’, which had gathered outside the parliament building ‘on its own’. Leaders of this crowd continued to strain their lungs to drum out the message that the “people of Pakistan will just not swallow the maligning of its armed forces”.
Interestingly, none of the participants was willing to name the person or political party daring to ‘ridicule’ or ‘defame’ our armed forces. But reporters, covering the political scene of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad for years, needed no legwork to discover the invisible instigators and managers of this show.
I feel shy to name them. Suffice it to say that these days, the real string-pullers of this ‘mass rally’ are not feeling very comfortable with Nawaz Sharif and his party. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan appears to provide the main provocation and the tension essentially is all about real estate and supporting or disowning this or that land grabbing mafia.
If some professional really takes care of our armed forces’ image management, the staging of this rally should have been discouraged.
The absence of such management was doubly felt when the state-run PTV broadcast this rally live.
In a way, Nilofar Bakhtiar set the tone for the message that was being repeatedly chanted at the rally. She patiently waited for over two hours to speak during Senate proceedings.
After getting the mike, Bakhtiar, a prize-winning debater in her college days, sadly referred to some SMS messages, which were being “widely disseminated” since Osama’s killing. The deviously-run campaign, she believed, wanted to instill a sense of despondency among the people of Pakistan. “We are (being) made to believe as if our armed forces are incapable of defending the country, and the ISI (has failed) in doing its job,” she lamented.
With a choked voice and visibly struggling to control tears floating in her eyes, she proudly recalled being the daughter of a father who wore a khaki uniform. Yes, she is the talented daughter of a brave army officer who was included among thousands of the prisoners of war that India took after the fall of Dhaka in 1971. Yet, she went a bit too far in telling the upper house of parliament that she had “inherited the tendency to tell nothing but whole truth from her grandfather and great grandfather, all of whom wore khaki and fought for this land”.
Well! the Potowhari ancestors of Ms Baktiar must have been blunt-speaking type, but they must have served the British imperial army and could not have fought for the state that Quaid gave us in 1947.
One can go on, but like the rest of my colleagues, I have consumed the whole of Thursday in an effort to find what may happen during the in-camera joint session of parliament Friday. Until my writing this column, neither the government nor the opposition seemed to have finalised about how to act tomorrow. One thing is obvious, though. At some point during the closed-door session, the PML-N legislators plan to walk out. There is a strong possibility of their coming out at the outset, if instead of either the COAS or DG ISI, the defence secretary comes forth to make the ‘main presentation.’
So far, the ANP has been behaving as a docile ally of this government. But its legislators can surprise us by joining the PML-N in coming out of the secret session.
The game-setters of the Zardari-Gilani government are just not pushed. They are convinced that their government is all set to complete its term, unless it calls for early elections itself. After allotting three ministries to the MQM the other day, they excitedly wait for the passage of the budget.
Hardly a few weeks after passage of the budget, they are all set to make another attempt to ‘get’ Punjab, this time by formally putting a vote of no-confidence against Shahbaz Sharif. What encourages them to go for it, seems to be the discreet negotiations held between Tahir Ali Javed, the leader of the so-called ‘unification bloc’ of the PML-Q turncoats, and some Lahore-based ‘delivery boys’ of Asif Ali Zardari. A budding media tycoon is also learnt to have joined them, ostensibly after being getting the go-ahead of his permanent ‘handlers.’
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2011.
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