When cheap theatrics overshadow real politics

PPP and PML-N legislators heedlessly squander in the National Assembly, dragging Quaid's name in for controversy.

Nusrat Javeed February 22, 2013
Nusrat Javeed

Both the PPP and PML-N legislators heedlessly squandered the whole Thursday sitting of the National Assembly in cheap point scoring.

Their conduct turned doubly unbearable for shamelessly dragging the name of Quaid-e-Azam to trigger a senseless controversy.

In Islamabad, there had been a university functioning for some years with the name of Quaid-e-Azam Medical University. The government desired that the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) should turn into an active campus for the same university. A good step indeed, but while furnishing the legal cover to this arrangement, some more loyal types in the government suggested that the degree awarding PIMS should be renamed as Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University.

Being the self-declared heirs of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Nawaz Sharif’s loyalists could not swallow the said idea and diligently constructed a narrative that made us believe as if the PPP government was “replacing the name of Quaid” with the founder of their party.

Arrogantly disregarding the lethal impact of this story, the PPP never cared to explain that it was simply renaming the PIMS and not ‘deleting’ the name of Quaid-e-Azam from its title, which had never been there to begin with.

Taking advantage of its majority in the house, it instead decided that the law that had been prepared in the said context must be passed on Thursday.

In their obsession to score cheap points, the PML-N legislators went mad and blind. They simply failed to see that they were savouring a soft numerical edge when the said bill was put for voting. Instead of pressing for a headcount with not much effort, they could have rather frustrated and embarrassed the government in the end.

After meticulous counting, even I figured out while sitting in the gallery that six more members were present on the PML-N benches than the number assembled on the PPP side. The MQM was not pleased with presentation of the said bill either and in case of a headcount, no one from the PML-Q, another claimant of Quaid’s legacy, might have dared to stand in favour of renaming the PIMS.

The chance to defeat the government with smart tactics was clearly available to the opposition. That certainly was not the preference of the PML-N. It simply wanted to stage a show for media to spread the feeling as if the zealot ‘jiyalas’ of the PPP considered ZAB superior to the founding father of Pakistan.

Flaunting the portraits of Jinnah, they kept ferociously chanting the slogan of “Mohsin-e-Azam; Quaid-Azam,” while the chair rushed through motions of passing a law by the assembly.

With puffed up chests, the PML-N legislators came out of the house when it was adjourned immediately after passage of the said bill. They were glad for loudly selling the message that Bhutto’s loyalists were “insolently disrespectful” to Quaid-e-Azam.

In spite of pushing the PPP into a tight corner with good optics and hypocritical chest beating in the national assembly, movers and shakers of the PML-N remained busy in discreet meetings with some government emissaries.

However, thanks to the fear ignited by some Election Commission officers, both the parties have reached the decision that only a hardcore politician with some spine and firm commitment to holding election on time should be made the caretaker prime minister.

The prime minister and the opposition leader in the national assembly need to meet and agree upon a name to get there. Until Wednesday, PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was not willing to move on this front. He had instead announced in public that he would let the CEC finalise the name of the caretaker prime minister.

For the past three days, he and his colleagues are having second thoughts, though, and Mehmood Khan Achakzai has been approached again in sheer desperation. The diehard democrat from Balochistan is yet to say yes, but his recent meetings with the president and Nawaz Sharif seemed to have softened his heart to some extent.

Little wonder, the US embassy in Islamabad also invited him for a crowded and high-profile reception on Wednesday evening.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2013.


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