Somewhere in the first week of December 2011, Nawab Aslam Raisani anxiously sought an exclusive meeting with a seasoned politician of national stature. The chief minister of Balochistan wanted to fathom the ongoing flux in our political scene. The two leaders brainstormed for more than two hours envisioning various possibilities. They ended their meeting on a definite conclusion, however: come what may the system brought in through the elections of 2008 was breathing its last. Only a miracle could stretch it beyond Jan 2012.
When a very reliable source shared things discussed in this meeting with me early last week, I reacted with cynical remarks and grins. Proceedings of the National Assembly Thursday have forced second thoughts, however, and I surely need to meet my source to submit a sincere apology.
Much before the assembly sitting, TV screens were telling the world through shrieking tickers that the legal eagle of this government, Babar Awan, was being put in a deep soup by a full bench of the Supreme Court. The same court had already asked him to explain his conduct during a press conference on Dec 1. President Zardari had dictated the theme of that presser for sure. Its main objective was to convey his ire over the Supreme Court’s short order that upheld the maintainability of a petition that Nawaz Sharif had moved regarding ‘memogate.’
The ANP leader, Asfandyar Wali, was sitting with the President when the news was broken to him. Zardari wanted to react ferociously, but Asfandyar Wali forced him to convey his reservations over the order through a set of ministers known and respected for maintaining cool and sober attitudes. Khurshid Shah was most preferred in the said context and he was suggested to sit with Kaira, Maula Bux Chandio and Syed Naveed Qamar to convey the government’s position. In the end, though, Babar Awan managed to lead the show that provoked the Supreme Court to issue formal notices of contempt, not only against his person but also two other ministers of the Gilani government.
The Prime Minister had also been told in clear terms that by January 10, he must ask the Swiss banks to tell-all regarding accounts allegedly maintained by Asif Ali Zardari to stash “ill-gotten millions.” By not complying with the said order, Gilani may surely find himself standing in the dock. As if his problems with the Supreme Court were not enough, the Lahore High Court had also admitted another petition for regular hearing. The petitioner wants to invoke Article 6 of the Constitution against Gilani for ‘deliberately disregarding orders duly passed by the superior judiciary.’ The Prime Minister and some of his vocal ministers are in dire straits vis-à-vis courts for sure. Yet the National Assembly seems oblivious to the dilemma of its leader. It remained chaotically confused to decide whether it was time to start a general debate on creation of two new provinces.
The MQM had taken the lead to force the said debate Tuesday while putting an enabling motion. Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour triggered a virtual riot by resisting its putting. The proceedings were suspended to seek consensus. Eventually, the house reassembled and none other than Prime Minister stood up to deliver a forceful speech in support of creating new provinces for Hindko and Seraiki speakers. He also promised to allow a general debate on the same issue from Thursday.
Taking the verbal promises made by the Prime Minister for granted, Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi gave the floor to Dr Farooq Sattar of the MQM, after dispensing the day’s agenda. Syed Zafar Ali Shah, a PPP veteran, tried to resist on technical grounds. Kundi acted deaf and then Rana Tanvir of the PML-N stood up to subvert the move. The MQM retaliated with aggressive shouting. That provoked Asfandyar Wali to stand up. He reminded them that the promised general debate on creation of new provinces had not been formally put on the day’s agenda. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had reached the house in haste in the meantime. He also stood to wholeheartedly support members trying to prevent a debate on the issue.
The Deputy Speaker decided to continue with it after a consensus-seeking break and the ANP walked out in protest. Since then, leader after leader from various parties is talking to TV cameras for or against holding of general debate on the creation of new provinces. And this farcical exercise went on and on, precisely during a chaotic time when no one is sure about things to happen with the Zardari-Gilani government in the next few days.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2012.