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PPP raising a storm in the teacup


April 15, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: It is agitation time for the otherwise easy going PPP as they are bent upon making the issue of three missing Zardrai aides an issue of national importance.

For the second day, all of them walked out in absence of any reply from the subdued treasury on the issue of missing Zardari aides. Luckily, they did fairly well on this day by forcing an abrupt end to Thursday’s proceedings as the treasury was caught napping – not able to muster at least 86 members to maintain quorum.

And that too when Defence Minister Kh Asif was in the middle of an important policy statement, though repeat of his Wednesday’s Senate statement, on Saudi-led alliance, and former army chief’s joining it – formally by this May. So the Defence minister had to sit back and then pack up from the National Assembly knowing well no serious effort was on the cards by 3-4 ministers to assemble the required members on this day. For now, PPP availed itself of an opportunity by default to highlight their case and presence felt by playing it to the galleries. Tomorrow is another day.

Interestingly, the total of collective agitational effort at hand was well coordinated, in both Parliament and Sindh Assembly. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah contributed significantly by playing the “Sindh card” threatening to occupy federal Sui Gas offices in Karachi provided a 100MW power plant near Hyderabad was not provided with the required gas connection this

 week. It definitely stirred some emotions, and made some news headlines. More is in the offing. But then we came to know that the Sindh government had to submit a Rs1 billion bank guarantee to the federal gas company. Here, the devil is definitely in the detail. The whole effort is directed at putting maximum pressure on the government. Apart from the rental power plants unleashed during early parts of its 2008-13 government, apparently this is the latest yet serious effort by PPP to end power outages in the province falling under its governance, even when it is in opposition at the centre.

Remember some PPP ministers, spearheaded by the then federal minister Khursheed Shah, coming up with a novel idea of running cars with water. It would have ended country’s power and fuel crisis, then and there. But the ‘old imperialist powers’ and ‘vested interests’ didn’t let them do it. The same forces are at work again, it is ‘suspected’ by PPP’s quarters.

Still the task at hand is really uphill for the happy-go-lucky opposition leader in the National Assembly to make it a priority issue of national importance.

Apparently it concerns three little known yet key personal aides of the former president. But the PPP insistence and subsequent government silence makes the whole issue conspicuous. But Mr Shah is doing it his way employing the best of his abilities – rhetoric unlimited PPP style. Strange enough, it is finding little sympathy, backing on the issue from major parties (especially PTI) as three little known but key aides of former president Zardari are still missing. PPP is not clueless, especially when its top man in the National assembly hints it was not the work of Sindh or federal police. He hinted the obvious, in a veiled manner. Still, Zardari sahib’s cronies are hoping against hope for the issue to settle amicably in absence of any formal government reply on the issue, till date.

Minister Sheikh Aftab is partly to be blamed, not for any connection with the whole episode. But, for not returning with state minister Balighur Rehman when dispatched by the Speaker in the face of warning by Khursheed Shah as the morning session began. But the readily available and often-present minister was hard to find even when his sole responsibility is to cover the flank when Interior Minister Ch Nisar is not around, or ready to run up in Parliament. It was a typical time-buying tactic. And everyone on the PPP benches knew it well. Ch Nisar, on his part, is not inclined to divulge details of this matter even when it falls under his domain. His track record of working relationship with PPP’s Sindh government, or for that matter, legislators in Parliament, has been problematic throughout. But all this does not make Khursheed Shah’s task at hand easy. Staying put at the lobby, he had to dispatch a PPP legislator to point out quorum, and she returned triumphantly for the job well done. The effort naturally didn’t go well with PTI’s agitator in chief, Dr Shireen Mazarri. On Thursday, Mazarri-Alvi duo had come up with an adjournment motion on Pakistan’s role in Saudi-led military alliance in the making, and former army chief’s role in the whole scheme of things. But her tone was a bit conciliatory as she raised pertinent questions about the shape, mandate and scope of the military alliance – apparently to fight terrorism in and around Saudi Arabia. Dr Arif Alvi was more cautious in the aftermath of party leader Imran Khan’s recent meeting with the sitting army chief. Hence the toned down version of the earlier PTI public posture unleashed a few days back for largely media consumption. As if all the necessary give-and-take has already been done, Kh Asif played it cool. This made his task easier to understand and get across as he explained the whole issue, opposing nothing – even a joint sitting of Parliament on the issue if treasury, opposition agree on the same. Waiting impatiently for Panama case verdict, deep down Imran Khan’s inner circle knows their limits on the issue. And would happily confine themselves within limits already agreed upon with the power that be. So there is nothing special about it.