Don’t blame the British

The violence in Karachi did not appear to be the main concern of “our representatives”.


Nusrat Javeed August 05, 2011

Going by the hypocritical noise made on TV screens by our “fiercely independent” media, our people feel too passionately about “sovereignty” and want to protect it by all means.

Being the elected and, thus, legitimate voice of our people’s will, the National Assembly is often heard wailing over the loss of national sovereignty. Not once but on three occasions, for example, it asked the government to stop US-fired drone attacks, through consensus resolutions.

Call me naïve if you will but driving towards the assembly at noon on Thursday, I expected rowdy scenes and noise on floor of the house. The assembly, suspending the given business, has been discussing the perennial violence in Karachi since Monday and we seriously expected some doable set of initiatives at the end of a lengthy debate.

While our representatives were still groping for solutions, the British seemed to have hijacked the task of restoring and ensuring peace in Karachi. A press release tells us that British Foreign Office Minister for South Asia Alistair Burt, in a telephonic conversation with Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad, “expressed concern at the continuing violence and loss of life that Karachi has faced in recent weeks and warned that inflammatory statements could worsen the situation.”

As if to ensure appropriate execution of the message, British Deputy High Commissioner in Karachi Francis Campbell also reportedly met political leaders in the city.

The cynical journalist in me instantly felt as if our intellectually-barren and utterly incompetent elite, when it comes to matters of governance, has outsourced the task of restoring order in Karachi to our past masters. A question remained stuck in my mind: Will the honour-driven defenders of our sovereignty digest this without much ado?

To my utter surprise and shock, no member of the National Assembly who made a speech on Karachi’s situation during Thursday’s session, including JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, seemed to have read the British statement. Rather, most of them appeared to have had enough of Karachi.

The speech delivered by a vocal PML-N member from Rawalpindi, Hanif Abbasi, fully reflected the discomfort with the Karachi-focused discussion. As if to provide an amusing diversion, he took on the PPP for petty point-scoring. “Karachi will certainly lead to another break-up of this country if the PPP continues to stay in control,” was the main message of his speech, in which he venomously recalled Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s role that presumably provoked the separation of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

As a rowdy student of a college in Lahore, Abbasi was tutored in politics by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in the 1990s. He reached the National Assembly in 2002 as a JI member but, to ensure his re-election in 2008, he switched over to the PML-N.

As a hardened opponent of the PPP, he should not be bothered if the current Zardari-Gilani government has assigned important portfolios to people who have no links with the party established by Bhutto. Yet, he feigned to be feeling really perturbed about it.

Behaving elegantly cool, Speaker Fehmida Mirza always tries hard to keep order in the house. But she could not deny giving the mic to Imtiaz Safdar, an equally vocal loyalist from PPP, who wanted to react to Abbasi’s diatribe on a ‘point of personal explanation’. Safdar went on to recall the “cowardly conduct of Nawaz Sharif, who could not face the trial and tribulations of living in a cell at Attock Fort and sought forgiveness and permission to leave for Saudi Arabia from a general who had toppled his government,” was the point Safdar kept rubbing in.

The PML-N benches were clearly upset. Often, they would stand in unison to plead for Mirza’s intervention. “You asked for it,” remained her attitude, though.

In short, the violence in Karachi did not appear to be the main concern of “our representatives”. Don’t blame the British, therefore, if they have decided to act.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2011.

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