On the eve of the Attorney General’s appearance before the Supreme Court for answering the question on writing a letter to the Swiss government that may help locating millions that President Zardari is alleged to have parked in various banks of that country, the government was all set to soften the contempt of court law through a flood of tedious amendments from the senate as well.
The national assembly had already passed the same set of amendments during one-sitting on Monday night without any discussion.
Although confident of getting their amendments passed by the upper house without much ado, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) regulators of the legislative business were seen anxiously watching the mood and body language of Senator Raza Rabbani, a veteran PPP activist from Karachi who was pulled up to high profile politics by none other than Ms Benazir Bhutto.
President Zardari is not very fond of him. Still, he assigned Senator Rabbani the laborious job of building consensus for passage of the 18 Amendment and issues related to national security.
Things are radically different this time round. Senator Rabbani had loudly been telling friends and colleagues that the idea to amend the constitution with the sole purpose of protecting legislators with dual-nationalities violated the fundamental principles that the PPP set for itself during its formative years in the late 1960s. Senator Aitzaz Ahsan fully endorsed his position and it was due to the tough resistance mounted by the two that the government had dropped the idea of amending the Constitution in haste. Both are also not happy over the induction of the amendments being made to the contempt law. They strongly feel that the apex court will hardly take anytime to strike them under principles set under Article 25 of the Constitution. Both of them are equally annoyed with the government’s legal eagles for not consulting them before putting their crafty ideas for voting in the Senate. Senator Aitzaz had already expressed his reservations, mildly in public and forcefully during parliamentary party meetings. Senator Rabbani, however, had been threatening to state his objections during the Senate sitting and since Wednesday morning he was being approached by various ministers to calm down. To meet the deadline for writing this column, I could not wait for his final act, however.
A very senior minister had vetted my curiosity on another issue. While rushing towards the National Assembly sitting, he whispered to my ears in the lobby that the reporter in me should try to find out as to why Dr Hafeez Shaikh did not attend the cabinet meeting Wednesday. Three other ministers that I talked to separately did confirm that Shaikh was missing from the meeting, but were just not able to explain the reason for it. One of them casually wondered if, perhaps, the finance minister was a dual-nationality holder as well and was not sure whether he should return to Pakistan to continue working discreetly “less someone finds it out.”
Another minister did not agree to the suspicion that Sheikh was a dual-nationality holder. He rather insisted that the finance minister was somewhat upset with the conduct of Dr Asim and Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar. After being elected as prime minister, ‘Raja Rental’ had expressed a firm intent to address the issue of load-shedding. To do the same, he held a special meeting that focused on this issue for more than five hours. The minister I was talking to claimed that, during the said meeting, both Asim and Mukhtar took on Shaikh and projected him as being exclusively responsible for the chaos and gloom for not releasing funds in time. Since both these ministers are considered too close to President Zardari, Shaikh was made to believe as if he was being singled-out after a wink and nod from the Presidency. And the real reason for this were the rumours that the donor agencies and some quarters in the military-bureaucratic oligarchy were considering Shaikh as the most suitable wizard for heading the government of ‘able, honest and patriotic patriots that should be allowed to work for at least two years with the specific purpose of turning the economy around.’ I was also told that Shaikh would prefer to wait and see the fate of Raja Ashraf before returning to Pakistan.
After gathering so many confusing signals, I finally approached a person considered close to Senator Shaikh. He was not willing to go into any details, but briefly informed me: “Hafeez is vacationing with his wife and daughters in Europe and will return to the country on July 20. The rest are cock and bull stories.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2012.