Tuesday’s joint session of parliament was a lively event: everyone present in the National Assembly hall was excited. The 111 Brigade was deployed inside and outside the assembly. The lawmakers arrived on time and spent some moments interacting with one another before the start of the session.
It was quite easy to ascertain the subject of the legislators’ discussions depending on who was interacting with whom. An informal interaction between JI chief Sirajul Haq, the PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi and the MQM’s Rashid Godil was obviously related to the NA-246 by-elections in Karachi, scheduled for April 23.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and former finance minister Naveed Qamar exchanged pleasantries perhaps on the significance of the agreements signed between China and Pakistan during the two-day visit of President Xi Jinping.
Following in the footsteps of many of his low-profile colleagues, Godil rushed to the gallery where army chief Gen Raheel Sharif was sitting with the other services chiefs.
The MQM member apparently only wanted to shake hands – and maybe minimise the trust deficit due to his party chief’s controversial statements against the law enforcement agencies.
Gen Raheel looked pleased to see the lawmakers advancing towards the powerful gallery. He stood up from his seat to meet them.
The ruling PML-N’s female lawmakers were happy to see Kalsoom Nawaz entering the special gallery at 9:30am along with Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan. Clad in colourful dresses, the lawmakers rushed to Kalsoom’s gallery.
All the entry gates of the parliament were closed at 8:30am. PM Nawaz Sharif entered the hall at 9:45am, 15 minutes before the address of special guest President Xi. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar was perhaps the last lawmaker to enter the house at around 9:55am.
As NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq entered with Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani and President Xi, he announced commencement of the proceedings. He gave a brief introduction of the guest and told the house about the significance of his visit.
The hall was packed to its capacity. The entire house stood up to welcome the special guest. Everyone in the galleries was also on their feet.
Seeing the enthusiastic atmosphere around her, Peng Liyuan was visibly in a joyous mood. She offered her gratitude by clapping in response to the continuous thumping.
Xi particularly focused on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. “To help Pakistan is to help ourselves,” he said. His vision is to see a new South Asia, for which he hinted at Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India becoming part of the joint development.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2015.