Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has certainly developed a knack for preventing noisy scenes in the National Assembly by engaging the opposition leaders in heart-to-heart talks in meetings kept firmly closed to media representatives. All parties of the opposition were furious to find him absent from the Friday sitting, where he was supposed to wind up an already overstretched discussion on post-Mehsud chaos. Instead of running to the house straight on Monday evening, he invited most of the opposition leaders to the Speaker’s chamber and kept them busy in candid conversation for two hours.
The delay in summoning the national assembly sitting forced most parliamentary reporters to presume as if the government and the opposition were trying hard to reach agreement on the text of a ‘joint resolution’ which should somehow ‘condemn’ Syed Munawar Hassan’s remarks regarding the deaths of security personnel while participating in what he called the “US-led war”. The cynic in me did not expect any such resolution in view of the bare fact that the PTI benches are too crowded and vocal in this National Assembly and this party remains the most solid partner of the Jamaat-e-Islami in the K-P government. The interior minister eventually confirmed my hunch by casually informing the house himself that the idea of tabling such a resolution was “dropped by consensus”, simply because none of our political parties desired to get bogged down in “unnecessary controversies.”
Yet he spoke on and on for not less than forty minutes to share his post-Mehsud thoughts. Doing so, he hardly added anything new and like a broken record rather kept repeating the claim that through diligent efforts of two months, the government was about to engage the TTP in serious discussions for peace but the US fired missile scuttled the possibility by killing Hakimullah Mehsud.
With a hurt heart, he also continued referring to a plethora of media stories, questioning his claim that through a group of three religious scholars the government was almost set to reach the TTP hardly ten hours before the killing of Mehsud. “I have a pile of documents and audio tapes to prove my point,” he insisted before conveying a conclusive message, i.e, any solid movement on peace negotiations was simply not possible unless the drone strikes were stopped. He preferred not to address the question about how to manage cessation of the drone strikes. Although he also suggested, not too subtly, that the Nawaz government, of late, had already contacted some influential Americans to convince them over the need of stopping the drone strikes.
Repeatedly stressing on the crucial relevance of stopping the drone attacks to achieve peace through negotiations with the TTP, he did not bother to explain his thinking about what if Washington refused to oblige in this regard. He also disregarded the reality that continuation of the drone attacks in spite of “sincere and serious efforts by the PML-N government” would eventually strengthen the hand of those political parties who were trying to build pressure through street agitation and public rallies that the drones must be stopped by all means that include the possible downing of them.
The interior minister did not sound to have given up the hope of reaching the peace agreement with the TTP, even after the surfacing of a viciously revengeful Mullah Fazlullah as its Amir. He rather kept dropping heavy hints to vend the hope that most of the TTP cadres would eventually prevail in convincing their new leaders that the government’s offer for talks should be considered seriously. He required “four to six weeks” to witness the maturing of his hope, however. Until then, media had better stopped criticising his efforts and be extraordinarily vigilant to act dumb to “disinformation that so many enemies of Pakistan were spreading regarding the prospects of peace with Taliban.”
Throughout his speech, he also indulged in obvious pinching of Mehmood Khan Achakzai, one of the most solid admirers of Nawaz Sharif. He often tauntingly referred to his speech in the house the other day wherein the Pushtun nationalist from Balochistan had offered his very own recipe to ensure order and peace in Fata.
Many in the press gallery seriously believed that the interior minister could ‘soften” the opposition, primarily due to the meeting that the prime minister had with the opposition leader Monday morning. My sources, however, do not support this feeling. They rather insist that focus of this Syed Khurshid Shah’s meeting with the prime minister remained the apex court’s insistence on seeing the local bodies’ polls on the dates it had extracted by merciless persistence and pressure on the provincial governments and the Election Commission.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2013.