It has been rather disturbing to witness the way Sherry Rehman has been the latest target of the purists within the ruling PPP. For years, Sherry has represented the intellectual vigour within her party. From drafting of manifestoes to holding the important portfolios, she has been an articulate defender of the PPP and its government. Her decision to resign in the wake of the judges’ saga and media handling of the 2009 Lahore-Gujranwala Long March was a matter of democratic choice.
After her resignation, she did not defame her party leadership and continued to demonstrate her loyalty. She is now a victim of an unwise ban on PPP leaders and legislators preventing them from appearing on a particular television channel. Worse, she has been lumped with the other dissenters — Naheed Khan and Safdar Abbasi — whose politics is altogether different.
The Naheed-Safdar duo has acted like a wounded couple since the time Benazir Bhutto was assassinated and Asif Zardari took over the party. It is a separate matter that sections of the electronic media have been using them as the righteous voice of the PPP in complete disregard of the fact that Ms Khan is neither elected, nor does she hold an official post in the party. Such is the intellectual dishonesty here that Ms Bhutto’s decision of not awarding a women’s seat ticket to Naheed Khan has never been discussed. Similarly, Mr Abbasi who was one of the interlocutors in the NRO deal has overnight become the biggest critic of the ordinance.
On the other hand, Sherry Rehman has no covert agenda and does not allow herself to be used as a pawn in the usual game played by anti-democracy forces. If there was a ‘ban’ on appearing on any particular television channel, the PPP should have taken its leaders and cadres in confidence, instead of issuing a decree via press conferences.
A democratically-elected party, gagging its own senior leaders is worrying to say the least. The issuance of a show-cause notice was followed by a siege of Ms Rehman’s house in Karachi by a mob, while the police stood by and did nothing. Her ailing mother and daughter were in the house and remained hostage for hours.
Since then, the PPP leadership has neither explained nor apologised for the unruly behaviour of the mob that circled her house. Sherry Rehman has served the cause of her party far better than many of its powerful stalwarts of today. Above all, she is not just a politician as she mediates multiple identities: as a legislator, a civil society activist, head of a think-tank and a voice of reason and fine intellect.
By pushing people like her to the wall, the party is only harming itself — because the party needs competent people like her.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2010.