In an almost deserted house the national assembly members went on dispensing the day’s agenda half-heartedly. Most ruling party legislators were staying put in various ministerial chambers.
Anxiously scanning the 24/7 channels, they wanted to find out as to how the Supreme Court would react to another prime minister’s visible reluctance for writing a letter to the Swiss government to locate millions that Asif Ali Zardari is alleged to have parked in that country.
In this season of perennial doom and gloom, Raja Pervez Ashraf appears to be the one and only who continues to act as if driven and task oriented. For another day, he presided over an exhaustive meeting at his office to find means for reducing long hours of load shedding. During the same meeting he developed suspicions that although the ministers of power and petroleum sincerely wanted to help him achieve the target, there indeed were some bureaucrats who felt not too motivated.
With the reported intent of seeking approval for rolling heads in the same context, he went to the presidency at around 2:00 pm for a two-hour one-on-one huddle with Zardari. Then, he returned to his office to watch the breaking news that came from the Supreme Court without anyone sitting around him.
After ejecting Gilani from the prime minister’s office for not writing a letter to the Swiss government, the Supreme Court is not expected to treat Ashraf in a different manner on the same issue. Leniency towards the Raja from Gujjar Khan would rather furnish substance to Gilani’s story that he had been “punished,” not for disobeying the Supreme Court but for demanding a separate province for the Seraiki-speaking people. As a street-hardened activist, Prime Minister Ashraf fully fathoms the obvious.
No wonder, very cunningly he is trying to build the case that he cannot decide over the question of writing a letter to the Swiss government in his personal capacity. He rather plans to convey the ‘collective decision of the cabinet’ on July 25 to the Supreme Court on this thorny matter. How will he reach there? I have no answer to this question. Suffice for the moment is to report that even some old PPP loyalists have seriously started wondering whether everyone would stay on board with Raja Ashraf, when it comes to communicating a reply to the Supreme Court that each member of the federal cabinet ‘owns’ in apparently a suicidal manner.
Since the sacking of Gilani the government seems miserably dysfunctional anyway. Vital decisions on crucial issues are being deferred and postponed. Take the issue of restoring the NATO supplies to Afghanistan via Pakistani routes, for example. The government of Pakistan announced restoration of these supplies more than a week ago. Yet, until my writing this column only four containers had entered Afghanistan.
The accumulated cargo needing not less than 1,500 containers could just not be moved due to demurrage-connected complications. These complications were supposed to be addressed by an inter-ministerial committee. The committee concerned could not meet, however, for both the finance minister and the foreign minister were not present in the country. Dr Sheikh had gone to Europe for vacationing with his family; Ms Khar is visiting Far East. Ms Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, meanwhile, had been enduring anxiety cramps over the growing hostility in the US Congress.
From July 20, some members of the US House of Representatives will start orchestrating Pakistan-bashing over the issue of Dr Shakeel Afridi’s arrest and subsequent conviction, visibly for helping the CIA locate Osama and eventually get him killed through a midnight raid on his compound in Abbottabad.
The smooth flow of NATO cargo to Afghanistan via Pakistani routes could help reduce the intensity of the intended campaign. But no one was apparently pushed in Islamabad and Ambassador Rehman had to take a plane to Pakistan. Her being around didn’t seem helping due to the absence of ministers of finance and foreign affairs. In the end, Prime Minister Ashraf had to deliver on this count as well. From highly reliable sources, this correspondent found out that during his farewell call on Pakistan’s prime minister the other day, Ambassador Munter referred to demurrage-connected complications. After his leaving, the prime minister decided to sign a summary to sanction waiver on accumulated demurrage in his discretion to facilitate the moving of 1,582 containers to Afghanistan. Raja Pervez Ashraf is really very lonely these days.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2012.
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