While surrendering its authority to take decisions on foreign policy related issues to our uniquely ‘sovereign parliament,’ the otherwise cunning and street smart government of Zardari-Gilani duo forgot to consider a fundamental reality: With the advent of 2012, all political forces and parties had gone in election mode. They are viciously struggling to cultivate, hold and expand their vote banks. In such a season, hardly a few would dare to associate with an unpopular-looking decision like restoring NATO supplies to Afghanistan via Pakistani routes.
The story does not end here. After friendly hobnobbing with the government for many months, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and his JUI-F had crossed over to the opposition benches. They would hate to let the Defense of Pakistan Council of committed Jihadis to emerge as the one and only group forcing the government to continue with blockade of the supply routes to Afghanistan.
Within minutes of presentation of the eight-page document on March 20 by a proud Raza Rabbani in which he hinted that NATO supplies would be restored albeit with weak sounding ifs and buts, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan initiated the derailing process. Even a week’s delay that he had extracted in the name of carefully studying the package that an all-party Parliamentary Committee on National Security had suggested could not change his mind. Finally, he and the rest of opposition leaders were cordially invited to a grand conference at the Prime Minister’s Office around two weeks ago. The COAS and new DGISI were also present there and the PML-N started dropping heavy hints that it was now ready to cooperate in finalising the deal. Chaudhry Nisar and his comrades also made us believe that only the pragmatic but not so dovish Senator Ishaq Dar could negotiate the dots and comas of this deal. Dar had not been in Pakistan, however, and was expected to return from Dubai last Friday. He had yet not returned and rather applied for two more days’ leave, when the joint parliamentary sitting started its proceedings Monday evening. The PML-N, in short, is not boarding the PCNS train.
After waiting for more than 60 minutes, Nayyar Bokhari took the presiding chair of a house that looked virtually deserted. Instead of coming straight to delivering speeches on the PCNS report, legislator after legislator vied to speak on points of order and tried to discuss all possible issues under the sun. From recalling the tragic missing of 100-plus Jawans at a post in Siachin, they gradually came down to the death of Bashir Qureshi, a Sindhi nationalist. Few of them also wanted to instantly discuss the sectarian strife in Gilgit-Baltistan. Only Haji Adeel sounded genuinely concerned while speaking on Siachin and he did very sanely try to point out the environmental disaster that both the armies of India and Pakistan were literally investing in while maintaining their control over the patches of snowy heights. No one was interested to pay heed to his thought-provoking questions, however, and I left the gallery in sheer disgust and frustration.
After coming out, I struggled hard to find out why Ishaq Dar had opted to continue staying put in Dubai until mid-week. No trustworthy source was available, although a staffer of the Senate claimed that for the past four days, Dar had even not been taking the phone calls made by none other than Nawaz Sharif. His information didn’t sound plausible; but you can never rule out the possibility of tensions between Dar and Chaudhry Nisar when it comes to who would be responsible for PML-N input on issues related to foreign policy.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman has smartly set another diversionary game in the meantime. He and his party are not attending the PCNS meetings despite the pleas of President Zardari. As if their boycott was not enough to delay the final decision on the question of restoring NATO supplies, Maulana had also stirred things to unleash an ‘ideological war’ between the self-proclaimed defenders of Islam and Muslim culture and the women activists, considered “too Westernized” for Pakistan. The directly-elected National Assembly had already passed a toothless sounding law against domestic violence. Our political Maulanas hardly cared to block its passage in the lower house, but they aggressively resisted its adoption by the Senate. In sheer frustration, the government had to put the law before the joint parliamentary sitting, which otherwise was summoned with the specific objective of providing guidelines to our dealings with NATO. The trick failed to deliver and we see no hope; either for a final decision on restoring or not restoring the NATO supplies or passing a law to discourage domestic violence. When will our uniquely ‘sovereign parliament’ also start delivering on its actual business, i.e. Legislation?
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2012.
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