What appeared to be a rare show of camaraderie across party lines seems now to have dissipated.
Unanimous in its outrage over the latest US drone strike a day earlier, the National Assembly on Tuesday appeared to be divided over how Pakistan should now react.
On Monday, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan had made a charged speech that his party’s government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) would block Nato supply lines from November 20, after the passing of the important days of Muharram. On Tuesday, Imran’s political rival Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), questioned his harangue and his threat to choke the ground lines of communication.
“Everyone knows how to lodge a protest but if a party [PTI] opts for a solo flight, then it appears to be an ultimatum, compelling others to follow suit. If we don’t, we look like we’re not taking the issue seriously,” the JUI-F chief remarked, while addressing the National Assembly on the second day of the debate over the issue.
He urged the government to hold another session of the All Parties Conference (APC) and take the political leadership into confidence for devising a strategy to get out of this fix. “We should not disseminate the impression that political parties are divided over the issue,” he added.
Nevertheless, “there is no need for a severe reaction (the Nato supply blockade) at this juncture since the issue was national and not a matter of ego,” he added. “We have to take decisions cautiously,” the JUI-F chief said and added that his party would support the government.
He appreciated Syed Khursheed Shah, the National Assembly’s leader of the opposition, for admitting that the “war on terror was not ours but we have dragged it into our house.” Later on, while addressing the media outside the Parliament, Fazl said that anyone killed by the US, even a dog, is a martyr. However, the statement was immediately clarified by his spokesperson saying ‘it was misconstrued and was taken out of context.”
Meanwhile, Shah held the government responsible for the post-drone attack situation, saying that there had been attacks in the past as well, but the hype was created this time due to the laxity of the government.
But the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) censured Khursheed Shah for his statement. “Former PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto had always said it was our war but I feel sorry for Shah today,” said MQM’s Dr Farooq Sattar.
He also opposed PTI’s decision of blocking the Nato supply line, saying, “Can we afford to do this keeping in view our relations with Nato countries. We need to consider whether the move will isolate the country or not.”
He said that the recent drone strike should not be made an excuse to declare the killers (TTP) innocent. “Don’t give a clean chit to them just because of this drone attack,” he argued. While talking about a resolution, if passed, over the issue, it would provide the Taliban a justification for carrying out their activities. “I wish Imran Khan could have grilled those who killed four MPAs of the PTI in the same way he condemned the US,” he said.
“It seems like we want to endorse their (Taliban’s) point of view in the assembly,” he said, while underlining the need for devising a counterterrorism policy. Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed put a question mark over the government’s claim that the dialogue process had started.
“According to my information, the Taliban were not informed about the visit of any delegation,” he added.
“Tell me the names of those three ulemas [who were supposed to formally invite the TTP],” Ahmed asked the interior minister, offering that the latter could disclose the names in private if not at the floor of the house.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2013.