Mass-based political parties with countrywide pull always reflect various shades of public opinion and often the aspirations of internally fighting groups. During proceedings of an elected house, however, parliamentary representatives of the same party have to act like a cohesive whole. Seen in this context, the PPP rather appeared a house miserably divided by its overall conduct during the National Assembly sitting of Wednesday.
Twice during the question-hour, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was noticed going to the gallery reserved for senior bureaucrats. After consulting some officials sitting there in whispers, she went to the presiding dais to exchange notes with secretarial staff of the National Assembly. Her movements clearly indicated that she intended to read an official statement. Anticipating ‘breaking news,’ most in the press gallery presumed that she planned to brief the house about the recently concluded visit of the Indian foreign minister. But in the end she stood to read a bureaucratic note which employed all diplomatic jargons and deceptive word-play to assuage the hurt hearts of self-proclaimed defenders of Pakistan’s sovereignty and honour, the usual ghairat brigade.
With shrieks on patriotic screens of our 24/7 channels, these characters had been seen aggressively wondering as to why a United Nation’s team had been allowed in the country, ostensibly to probe into the issue of “missing persons.” Abusing the privilege of delivering speeches on any issue in the National Assembly in the name of a “point of order”, some opposition legislators had also projected the arrival of this team in a conspiratorial background. The conspiracy theory insists that satanic enemies of Pakistan are working overtime to create the space for an “independent Balochistan.”
Instead of rubbishing their fear-mongering with a spirited political language, Khar sounded miserably apologetic while sweating to explain that the “UN has sent no commission to investigate the issue of missing persons.” The visitors in Pakistan these days were rather part of a reporting mission. Such teams keep visiting various countries to monitor the human rights situation there. So far, they had been to around 91 countries.
After delivering a professorial lecture, explaining and elaborating the semantic differences between a ‘commission’ and a ‘mission’ in diplomatic parlance, Khar went on to proudly announce that this team of the UNCHR had been invited to Pakistan by her government. The government was keen to show to the world that Pakistan was a dynamic democracy with robustly independent media and hyperactive judiciary. During their stay in the country, the UN team members would rather discover that satisfactory ‘mechanism’ had been established to thoroughly investigate into the allegations of involuntary or enforced disappearances of our citizens. Already, the head of our own commission established for the same purpose, Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, had once gone to Geneva in March 2012 to brief the UN on the same issue and by the way, after a visit to Pakistan the High Commissioner of the UNCHR had also described drones attacks as violating human rights.
The opposition had no questions to ask. One of its lead members from the front benches, Shahid Khakan Abbassi, rather stood to protest over the denial of electricity schemes to his constituency, immediately after foreign minister’s statement on presumably a national sovereignty-related matter. Noor Alam, a youthful PPP member, on the contrary, was seen asking for the floor agitatedly.
When allowed to speak, he took on a foreign minister from his own party and stridently kept asking as to what the UN had done to help Kashmiris, miserably living under Indian occupation. Why it does not stop the drone strikes and check atrocities committed by the US. After demolishing Ms Khar’s story with scathing remarks, he went to her desk with the clear idea of pushing her to the wall while rubbing in the same questions.
No one stood to defend the foreign minister and it sounded doubly ironic when Dr Attiya Inayatullah from the PML-Q took it upon herself to explain that that UN team’s visit was good news. Being fully exposed to working of the global bodies she rather sounded more convincing than the foreign minister.
Besides the embarrassing intervention by Noor Alam, the press gallery was also surprised and amused to find Afzal Sindhu sitting on the ruling party benches. He had announced his resignation from the PPP some weeks ago; also, the decision to join the Imran-led PTI. No one from the PPP stood to ask the chair that in what capacity, Sindhu had been sitting on the ruling party benches. I do wonder if his new party which claims committed to “revolutionary change” will also ask questions to him in the same context.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012.