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- Saturday, August 31, 2013 - From Print Edition


ISLAMABAD: The current Parliament session ended leaving a sour taste about a string of broken dreams and the sorry state of affairs.


The first 90 days of the government did not give us hope that we were promised during the elections. Forget the bullet trains, the government was found wanting on the basic issues of growing terrorism, inflation and energy. We have not seen even the contours of the national security policy, let alone a complete road map to peace. The PML-N government has blatantly reneged from its electoral promise to end electricity loadshedding in two years. Opposition concerns over creating energy monopolies and inflated price in Nandipur project also remain unaddressed. About the fiscal mismanagement, economist Ashfaq Ahmad Khan says the PML-N government borrowed Rs15.3b per day in 40 days against Rs1.4b daily by the previous regime in 2012-13. So much for the ‘kashkol-breaking.’


But it is the nonchalant government attitude that pinches the most.PPP’s Khursheed Shah believes that the PML-N is already behaving as it did after winning the ‘heavy mandate’ in 1997. Nobody wants a repeat of what happened later on.


“But there is something seriously wrong with their working,” ANP’s Afrasiab Khattak was heard saying at the cafeteria. “The government is being run by a dinner table coterie; even the kitchen cabinet is out of the loop.”


Afrasiab may not be entirely wrong. Before you will ask the key ministers, they will trump you by asking what’s going on. The prime minister failed to turn up in the National Assembly even once in the current session and the practice was generally emulated by his cabinet ministers — the basic lesson being that Parliament be damned. The Senate is yet to see the face of the prime minister in 90 days.


Perhaps Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz was emulating the PM in this regard. While the world around was on fire, he took exactly 90 days to give a briefing to Parliament. And that too after both the Houses huffed and puffed for not being informed in such a volatile international situation. In the end, it turned out to be just a whimper.


Sartaj merely read the usual briefing given by the Foreign Office daily. There was nothing wrong with his statement but it lacked details. We would have liked him to brief us about the fate of the Iranian pipeline or give us more details of the supposed corridor to China.


The myriad questions existed: how the tension at the LoC might affect the long-term peace prospects with India? What are the various options on Afghanistan in the wake of partial or complete US withdrawal?


How will the Afghanistan elections and post-Karzai scenario affect us? Even the statement on the latest situation in Syria was sketchy.Basically, we expected a more comprehensive debate but he left the real meat to be discussed in an in-camera closed door session with the Parliamentarians. Why, one may ask.


For too long this country has seen these modern-day Bismarks decide our fate behind closed doors. And look where it has landed us. The mere idea of an in-camera session betrays contempt for ordinary people who cannot be trusted for better understanding or judgment.


The very people who suffer the daily killings through drones and what not because of the very polices made behind closed doors. It makes sense if this was done in a dictatorship but why should an elected government hide behind closed doors. Why can’t we have an open debate on foreign policy in Parliament? It’s not about nuclear secret we are talking about, for god’s sake.


Unfortunately, the opposition fell for it. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who loves to talk on every issue under the sun, was mum on what should have been his forte as former foreign minister. The Naveed Qamars and Shafqat Mahmoods of the world let the old relic go unscathed. Even the Cicero in Mahmood Khan Achakzai was found yawning.


The pace of the government is slower than the events happening around.


Khawaja Saad Rafiq is perhaps the only exception in the government—or so he showed by his performance in the question-hour on Friday. He came well-prepared and knew what he was talking about. The good thing about him was that it lacked the usual government bravado. He made no tall promises about the Railways and painted a grim picture about the shortage of locomotives, land-grabbing and corruption. What do you do with the legal adviser who is not even a law graduate; he asked explaining the state of Railways.


The climax of presentation was the resolve that he showed to bring Lt General (R) Javed Ashraf Qazi within the law net. He said that everybody involved in the Chinese locomotive scam was in jail except Javed Ashraf just because he was a general who elicited 1000 watts electric current when touched (current maarta hai). “I promise you that I shall make him submit to law whatever the cost is,” he declared amidst thunderous appreciation from “do-takka” journos sitting in the Press Gallery.


We expected Parliament—particularly from the Balochistan members— to observe the international day for the missing persons. After all, we have one of the highest numbers of missing persons in the world.


But the occasion went unnoticed. The new Balochistan government needs to do more than expressing its helplessness.


Tail piece: Sheikh Rasheed was the centre of attention after surviving a gunfire attack on Thursday. One member after another went over to him to express their concern. For some reason, the Sheikh of Lal Haveli did not want this to be discussed. He did not even raise the issue but was forced by the Speaker to speak on it.


He hardly spoke for a minute saying that this was the fourth attack and that politicians should be ready for such things. Somehow this did not go with his usual style and gave his enemies the reason to speculate if this was all real. Now, this was cruel but Chaudhary Nisar added to the mystery by saying that it was difficult to understand about the way gun shots were fired. My sympathies with the Sheikh and dushmano ka moon kala!