The PPP, no doubt, has some weighty arguments to justify its boycott of the presidential election. After the crushing defeat it suffered during the elections of May 2013, however, the party has no person sitting in the national assembly who could articulate these arguments somewhat convincingly. No wonder, Shah Mehmood Qureshi dominated the show there and ruthlessly went on to expose his party’s conduct of being friends-to-all-but-sincere-to-none in the end.
Taking advantage of Syed Khurshid Shah’s absence, the parliament-hardened Khawaja Asif even got away with the claim that opposition leader in the National Assembly did not sound averse to the idea of advancing the date of presidential polls, when he approached him on this matter initially. Instead of refuting his claim with some force, Makhdom Amin Fahim preferred to walk out of the house along with his colleagues.
The scene was entirely different in the Senate where the PPP remains the single largest party with solid numerical support furnished by the ANP. It is not due to the quantitative edge only that the PPP senators were able to sell their story while speaking through nonstop points of order. With agile coordination, people like Raza Rabbani, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan and Farhatullah Babar forced a huge number of reporters to stay glued to their seats in the press gallery.
After the soft and deliberately academic-sounding start by Raza Rabbani, the PPP senators switched to building the narrative that by advancing the date of presidential polls the Supreme Court of Pakistan “arrogantly gate-crashed into spaces exclusively reserved for the so-called autonomous Election Commission of Pakistan.” Such build-up eventually facilitated the known hawk from the ANP benches to warn with clear words, “The Supreme Court is creating a situation where we would be forced to demand the resignation of its Chief Justice.” No senator from the opposition benches cared to dampen his message. The opposition senators, speaking after him, loudly owned his idea rather and kept on delivering speeches to push the apex court in a tight corner.
Raja Zafarul Haq did attempt to protect the Supreme Court by referring to a clause of the constitution that bars public representatives from discussing the conduct of superior court judges. Instead of helping, he rather provoked Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan to employ all tricks of a brilliant lawyer to explain his case with massive quotes from the constitution and the five-page judgment that advanced the date of presidential polls. He certainly was impressive in rubbing in the point that instead of advancing the date of presidential election, the Supreme Court even went on to lay down the whole schedule for the electoral process. An area, which he claimed, falls under the exclusive domain of the Election Commission. The third Nawaz government will certainly find it extremely difficult to counter points agitated by Aitzaz Ahsan.
The prime minister is certainly not happy with the PPP’s boycott of a “democratic ritual and tradition.” He feels doubly upset for the fact that he had gone an extra mile to protect the PPP government in Azad Kashmir. Leading a gang of formidable turncoats by staging a rebellion within, Barristar Sultan Mehmood certainly had numbers to topple the Majid government. The 11 members of the PML-N in the Azad Kashmir Assembly collectively decided and announced their support for Sultan. Acting deaf to their excuses, however, Nawaz Sharif forced them to “respect the PPP mandate to rule Azad Kashmir.” In return, he did not expect the extreme decision of boycotting the presidential election by the PPP.
He and his colleagues must appreciate that since May 2013 the PPP has been desperately waiting for the opportunity to bounce back in the political game. With the cautious and lovey-dovey conduct, the PML-N kept denying them the opportunity, but then came the Supreme Court decision that looked like a lifeline for the PPP. Its hawks could just not afford missing the same.
Aitzaz Ahsan does not forget and forgive anyway. Being a lead-star of the movement for restoration of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, he had been feeling let down for many months. Thanks to the overwhelming hatred for the previous government, he had been failing to fly and rather lost many of his ardent admirers in the process. His sharp instincts tell him that now is the time to bounce back. Until the scheduled retirement of Justice Chaudhry in December this year, he and his party will anxiously watch the happenings at the apex court. The aim is to spread the narrative that their government was “not allowed to deliver by a Supreme Court,” which, as Farhatullah Babar alleged in the Senate Monday, “has decided to rewrite the constitution in the name of interpreting it.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.