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March 21, 2017



Free day for all in NA to vent out anger

Free day for all in NA to vent out anger

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With almost every mentionable political entity in the National Assembly falling in line on the military courts issue (no chance of about-turns or U-turns) the treasury planned Monday as an open day for all – especially to vent out anger of less important political players on the issue. 

Interestingly, almost everyone, treasury-opposition alike, wants a hassle-free Tuesday (today) for their own reasons.

Enough of give and take, delaying tactics, jockeying, politicking etc. 

The PTI got somewhat moral high ground on the issue earlier as they castigated the treasury for lack of work on criminal justice system throughout the last two years, and PPP gets its parliamentary oversight committee on national security issues.

Let’s get over with it was the message emanating from a lackluster National Assembly proceedings on Monday evening as a result. Everyone knew scheme of the things for Tuesday (today) – the only challenging task for the treasury being flocking absent, shy members to the Assembly hall. 

The day would start with the scarce yet keenly awaited parliamentary party meeting with Premier Sharif in the chair. Enough to arouse interests and emotions of treasury back benchers. 

In Monday’s proceedings, Pushtoon nationalist leader, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, was the only dissenting voice. He too seemed cautious in stirring emotions, and acted more like a “calculated revolutionary”. 

Achakzai, on this day, seemed off-colour, in low key – a bit muted. A coalition partner of the PML-N in Balochistan where his elder brother is a provincial governor, he is ally of the PML-N in the center. And knows sensitivities this issue carries. 

Sitting nearby Sheikh Rashid humbly disagreed, and openly backed the government on the issue.   Moments before his turn, Rashid was seen bowing before the chair in accordance with parliamentary traditions, and handing out a chit for Speaker Ayaz Sadiq who acknowledged it forthwith.

Rashid was given out of turn time to speak, earlier than the PPP leader Naveed Qamar.  Rashid responded in kind, appreciating this gesture of the Speaker. 

No unwanted, unusual interruptions this day as “son of Rawalpindi” continued with his twenty min plus speech explaining in his usual fashion the “international great game” stuff to political realities on the streets. 

Shah Mahmood Qureshi took his usual 30 minutes plus quota in trying to convince everyone PTI worked meticulously in arriving at the consensus draft, putting the treasury on back foot throughout this period. 

Not everyone seemed convinced; even PTI’s own rank and file was not that appreciative. Naveed Qamar, the PPP Parliamentary leader, seemed overwhelmed as always, short of words he unwillingly employed all the awkward poses and breaks, and took pains in justifying party’s zig-zag on the issue during the last few days. 

It was exactly this time when Adi Faryal Talpur lost interest in the proceedings and left the hall, making several party legislators stand up instantly to pay respects. 

Some of them even escorted her to Parliament’s exist car porch. Opposition Leader Khurshid Shah had little to say on this day, except scorning over the usual lack of interest shown by treasury as only a dozen had turned up after the Maghrib prayer break. 

In the effort, he made two three ministers and a few treasury backbenchers double up in rushing towards the hall. Nothing more. 

Maintenance of quorum – only 86 required out of 340 plus to resume Lower house proceedings – has proved a difficult proposition for the PML-N and allies for weeks and months now. The current strength of treasury and allies easily surpasses a figure of 220, and PML-N alone has a lion’s share of 189 plus members. Even then Parliamentary affairs minister Sheikh Aftab had to take rounds of lobbies and ministers’ chambers, and dial emergency calls to MPs to rush to the National Assembly. 

The problem gets worst on weekends as the legislators embark for a two days leave. Most of them skip the Friday sittings to make it to the home, constituencies. And on first working day on every Monday too, when they rarely reach the Parliament even when the sitting on this day is put for evenings to accommodate travel hazards, moods too. 

Citing such an eventuality, the voting on Constitutional amendment was put off for Tuesday (today) after a rare parliamentary party meeting. 

Something to cherish for those members who will get to meet Premier Sharif and get some paper signed, work done. Otherwise, most of them have to wait impatiently for months to get to meet him – lined up constituency or preference wise. But, treasury needed to get almost everyone on board for such a constitutional amendment in the National Assembly, especially in the wake of PPP’s strength in the Senate.  

This was perhaps the main reason that on the heels of passage of constitutional amendment for re-establishment of military courts, Zardari sahib-led PPP tried to test nerves of the PML-N government by facilitating/instigating former Sindh minister Sharjeel Memon’s landing in Islamabad. 

The PPP wanted to exploit any fault lines, if existed on this issue, between the Premier Sharif-led administration and the assertive Interior Minister. But it could not be dug out or exploited as expected even when everyone knows Ch Nisar Ali has his own, somewhat, hawkish views, when it comes to deal with rogue, criminal and corrupt elements taking refuge in the folds of political parties. 

The case at hand was however unique, unfolding on the heels of passage of another Constitutional amendment PPP decided to support after a lot of give and take, persuasion.  

Memon was arrested at the airport, and later on released. Nothing seemed scripted on the face of it. And everything that followed was conducted in a smooth way till his eventual bail by the high court. 

One could gauge seriousness of the issue with the presence of ace PPP leaders cum lawyers accompanying Sharjeel at the courts. 

Two former Senate chairmen – Nayyer Bokhari, Farook H.Nayek – were with him. Remember Naek and Latif Khosa pursuing case of model Ayan Ali too. 

She has now left the country after fighting a long hard political battle courtesy unrelenting efforts of the ace PPP lawyers, leaders. The buck doesn’t stop here. More to come.