Most journalists are seldom seen in the press gallery during early hours of the National Assembly proceedings. Things appeared strikingly different on Wednesday. An unusual crowd of reporters took their seats at the outset. None of them, it seemed, wanted to miss ‘the noisy scene,’ the PML-N legislators were expected to make while abusing the privilege of speaking on a point of order.
The surge of ‘retaliatory speeches’ from the PMLN stalwarts was almost taken for granted in view of a lethal speech that President Zardari had delivered late Tuesday night. But to the utter disappointment of most of us the PML-N benches remained palpably restrained all through. But I have it from reliable sources that early Wednesday morning, Nawaz Sharif, made lengthy calls to friends. The sane-majority advised him not to react in haste.
These saner elements persuaded the PML-N leader to personally instruct his star legislators not to react to Zardari’s speech during the assembly proceedings. Still, the PML-N unease was conveyed to the right quarters at the right time as Syed Khurshid Shah was politely informed that the PML-N MNAs would not be attending the dinner he was to host at his residence after the passage of the Finance Bill on Wednesday.
Fairly late in the afternoon, a written statement was finally issued by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to bring the PML-N reaction on record. And Khawaja Saad Rafique also reacted to Zardari’s speech during concluding hours of proceedings while speaking on Marvi Memon‘s resignation from the PML-Q and parliament.
Mian Sahib, my sources insist, will still not want to get into one-on-one mudslinging with President Zardari. Let’s see for how long he can keep his cool.
There were a couple of more surprises in store for us besides the extraordinary restraint shown by the PMLN benches. A sitting minister made a laughing stock of himself by his pathetic antics and a politically driven, talented and articulate Marvi Memon, put to shame many of her ‘lota-minded’ colleagues by her brave move.
I have to confess that the incurable cynic in me did often question the revolutionary posturing that Marvi was resorting to of late. Her entry on our political scene under the patronage of General Musharraf was the sole cause of my bias. But perhaps it’s time to admit that a person interested in politics in this country just cannot avoid the praetorian route to reach his/he goal. But in the end Marvi achieved a historic first of some kind.
Many like her continue to sit without any qualms in this assembly on women’s benches of the same party. In private meetings, they loudly condemn the Chaudhrys for joining the PPP-led coalition, but don’t seem willing to sacrifice the perks and privileges of legislators by resigning from an allotted seat. Marvi deserves a hearty applause in this context. It is a different matter that rumors of her joining Imran Khan’s PTI are forcing me to predict a short-lived glory for her.
Compared to her dramatic announcement of resigning from the assembly, the show put up by a sitting minister, Akram Gill, seemed pathetically absurd. Along with three other minority members, he staged a protest picket, right in front of the speaker’s dais. The purpose was to express resentment over the decision of winding up the federal ministry of minority affairs as after the passage of the 18th amendment, minority affairs has become provincial subject.
Gill and his comrades claimed that during more than a year-long discussions and proceedings for passage of the said amendment, they were given assurances that the said ministry would not be touched. Without realising that they have missed the right opportunity to protest, the minister opted to put up a show, when the government was rushing to get the budget passed. Little wonder, the prime minister was seen, for the first time in public, to rudely tell Gill that he would sack him, if he did not return to his seat. Instead of resigning there and then the minister obeyed the order like a soulless robot. His love for an assembly seat and the ministerial berth amused many in the press gallery. But I for one was not amused.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2011.