In an episode of the brilliant BBC show “Blackadder” titled “Dish and Dishonesty”, the lead character Edmund Blackadder, whose plans have been bested once again, asks, “Sir, might I let loose a short, violent exclamation?”
What was a fairly jovial session of the Sindh Assembly on Friday was marked by a few short, violent exclamations. It started off well (and an hour and a half late, but that is par for the course) with Speaker Nisar Khuhro jokingly asking, during a discussion on libraries and the issue of unreturned books, if all the MPAs could also return any late books to the assembly library. Pir Mazharul Haq, the education minister who was infamously caught watching the making of “Sheila Ki Jawani”, a Bollywood dance video, on an iPad, remarked in the assembly that the “camera was zaalim (cruel)”, prompting giggles in the press gallery. While Haq was referring to news channels’ footage of the madrassa where shackled children were found, memories of his iPad moment still linger in the assembly. During the Question and Answers session, when Khuhro asked Haq, who had stood up to talk, if he had anything new to offer, Haq retorted that he did, and his “suggestions” would “shock and confuse” the speaker.
The lack of an opposition leader in the assembly seems to have made many miss the heated debates of days gone by. Haq seemed fairly critical when discussing the issue of libraries in Sindh, which made Khuhro sit up and note: “If you’re a minister, at least don’t be the opposition.” The Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) MPAs also appeared to be at odds with the government, but it came to a head when PML-F MPA Nusrat Abbasi asked Culture Minister Sassui Palijo if “women wearing jeans on Sindh culture day was part of the province’s culture”. Palijo, who had been on her feet answering questions for the better part of an hour, appeared shocked at the question and was rather defensive. “We do not live in the Stone Age,” she said. “Why does it matter if people wear shalwar kameez or jeans?” It was rather admirable of Palijo to take a stance on an issue that had nothing to do with her ministry, even as Khuhro rebuked the two MPAs for crosstalk.
Even though the session ran for around two hours, the minute the call for Friday prayers was heard, MPAs began fidgeting to leave. They probably should head over to the Sindh Information Department one of these days to see the number of journalists queuing up for press gallery passes.
Though on Friday morning, an official at the department pondered aloud why the department had a list of journalists running in several hundreds who required passes when the gallery could only occupy sixty or so.
While there is no cunning plan ala “Blackadder”, and even though the issue of libraries may not be the most intellectually stimulating - or urgent - the discussions in the Sindh Assembly still make for engaging viewing from the press gallery.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2011.
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