Reporters desperately look for man-bites-dog stuff. Hardly a few parliamentary reporters, including myself, may thus care to tell the world with eye-catching headlines that the National Assembly did pass a very important bill Wednesday. And the same passed with consensus, in spite of incessant acrimony that we see prevailing between the government and the opposition these days.
The approved bill will facilitate formation of a National Commission on Human Rights, to be headed by a person of impeccable reputation with credentials required for the appointment of a Supreme Court Judge. To ensure that the head of the said commission should work without fear or coercion, it has also been decided that he or she can only be removed through the process required to formally sacking any sitting judge of the superior courts.
Also comprehensive and lively was the debate which discussed the riot-stirring low pressure of gas supplied to domestic consumers in northern parts of Pakistan. Winding up the same, the minister of petroleum was too candid in revealing the actual causes that hinder the regular flow. Instead of making false promises, he repeatedly forewarned that gas supplies might turn far more unbearable in the coming acute winter months. It was time to seek long term solutions to the problem and until reaching there, the nation should develop the habit of heating homes and running kitchens through alternative means.
Still, instead of staying put in the gallery the story-starved reporters like me were anxiously looking for Asfandyar Wali. He had gone to meet President Zardari along with the Prime Minister. The ANP leader did not come to the National Assembly after returning from Karachi. He was also inaccessible on phone.
The Prime Minister came to the house, but didn’t stay for long. Most ministers that I could talk to were equally clueless when it came to the question of his meeting with the President. But a nonpolitical but reliable source confirmed the widely held perception that Yousaf Raza Gilani had asked the ANP leader to join him for a meeting with the President.
My sources insist that even after returning from Dubai, ostensibly for taking rest at home, Zardari has still not dropped the idea of addressing the joint sitting of parliament. If the government formally fixed the date of this sitting and promised to call it sometime next week, he may refrain from delivering a speech at Naudero on Dec 27. Instead of him, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari can read a well-thought-out speech on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of his mother’s assassination.
Most ministers of Zardari-Gilani government are just not willing to let the President address a joint parliamentary sitting in “present circumstances.” They strongly feel that his speech there may sound like the ‘swan song’ in the end, but they are finding it extremely difficult to find a dependable messenger who could pacify Zardari in this regard.
A set of diehard PPP loyalists with pragmatic bend of mind, meanwhile, are desperately trying to build some bridges with Nawaz Sharif before joining their leader to go for ‘calling the bluff of conspiratorial oligarchs.’ Through their contacts within the Nawaz camp, they worked hard to somehow convey it to the PML-N leader that during his stay in Karachi, he should at least make a phone call to President Zardari, if not visit him personally. Such a phone call or a meeting would not have looked odd, if done in the name of expressing concern for the health of Zardari. They failed to move an inch on the said count.
The Supreme Court’s clear instructions to the Election Commission Wednesday have made them feel doubly helpless, although the saner types amongst them keep interpreting those remarks as if preventing or scuttling the designs of those who are alleged to have been planning to “install a government of technocrats, sometime by the middle of January 2012.” Instead of holding elections within 90 days of taking over, as the constitution requires, the anticipated government expected extension in its tenure on the excuse of needing time to prepare a ‘foul proof list of eligible voters’ before setting dates for the next polls.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2011.
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