The first sitting of any National Assembly session is always adjourned after offering Fateha for the deceased, if it follows the death of a sitting legislator. Experienced parliamentary reporters were thus justified in not expecting any substantive business in the assembly on Thursday. In the Speaker’s office, the business advisory committee also endorsed observing the established practice in view of the tragic death of the youthful, polite and promising Mian Azim Daultana. Also very relevant in the said context was the death of Pir Pagara.
We, however, are living in “interesting times” of a Chinese cure these days. No wonder, an unusual crowd of reporters was anxiously staying put outside a spacious committee room at Parliament House Thursday evening.
A record number of ruling party members and their allies were huddled there to brainstorm a strategy. The prime minister had summoned this unscheduled session to project the image of stability and business-as-usual about his government.
Through what kind of signals the desired message should be conveyed was the question. A resolution reiterating confidence over the conduct of Yousaf Raza Gilani remained the most favored option. A peculiar set of ruling party legislators, however, preferred other means.
While the ruling party and its allies groped for a viable strategy, the opposition leader was found sitting with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Aftab Ahmad Sherpao and Salim Saifullah Khan in his chambers. After presiding over an exhaustive meeting of his legislators, Nawaz Sharif decided to actively pursue the idea of tabling a motion of no confidence against the prime minister. He surely has numbers to post the said motion, but without firm commitments from the ANP or the MQM.
Asfandyar Wali is yet not willing to ditch Asif Ali Zardari, but the MQM prefers to act vague – and that has frightened a good number of PPP legislators from Sindh. At least three of them separately told me Thursday that the MQM’s non-committal posturing amidst this serious standoff between the Zardari-Gilani government and its opponents would trigger an ominous backlash in their province. Dr Zulfikar Mirza had ignited historic, but now dormant, tensions between two major linguistic groups in Sindh. President Zardari had to control the damage through desperate measures. After his falling sick, Mirza opted to lie low – but confusing and conflicting signals from the MQM will surely prove him right for the hawkish loyalists of the PPP in rural Sindh. Nawaz Sharif and his party don’t seem to fathom, forget appreciate, the legitimate-sounding concerns of these PPP legislators.
A federal minister, widely acknowledged for being an accomplished manipulator of Byzantine games, was not that pushed. He firmly told me that Nawaz’s idea of tabling a motion of no confidence against the prime minister would not take off, and he might not be that committed to send the government home through street agitation either.
The minister insisted that Nawaz had been forced to think twice before heating things up against this government. After all, the conspiracy-prone drawing rooms of Islamabad had been echoing with incessant talk for the so-called ‘Bangladesh model.’ The model envisages a government of accomplished technocrats replacing the Zardari-Gilani government. Instead of holding elections within 90 days of taking over, the said government was expected to address the accumulated problems of Pakistan through a set of long-term solutions – for, it is said, a period of at least for two years before holding new elections.”
Nawaz is not going for the final push against this government, wholeheartedly, for this very fear.
While endorsing the idea of Nawaz’s real or imagined reservations regarding the idea of taking on the Zardari-Gilani government in an either/or manner, another well-informed minister sounded more perturbed over the possibility of another turf war – this one being between his government and national security outfits. Mansoor Ijaz will get sole credit for triggering the said battle that this minister was imagining. Despite my pleas, he refused to discuss the matter with solid details and kept asking me to find out as to why Ijaz had yet not applied for a visa to Pakistan. “What would happen to ‘Memogate’, if he does not appear before the Supreme Court-appointed commission,” he kept asking anxiously.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2012.
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