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National

October 3, 2017

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Nawaz holds sway despite disqualification

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ISLAMABAD: You can love him, you can hate him. But you cannot avoid him as the Pakistani politics just keeps on revolving around him even two months into his historic disqualification by the apex court. 

Former premier Nawaz Sharif remains a strange phenomenon of Pakistani politics. Now he is all set to become president of the ruling PML-N as he and family face the toughest of challenges of their political lives in days and months ahead. As adversaries count 180 days, hoping to seal his political fate as a result of NAB references to be decided by February end as per time stipulate by the apex court, the former premier has surprisingly been able to revive his support base through the August GT Road march. Still, his handpicked rule the federal, and two of the provincial governments. His party is intact as more pragmatic of the lot remain hopeful they would be able to mend fences with the ‘real establishment’ in the days and weeks ahead – a tough task and ask in the peculiar power dynamics of this country especially when the demand from the powerful quarters revolves around “minus one”. What happened at the judicial complex in Islamabad Monday morning was just a blip, and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal knows what might be in the offing. He is sure that the whole PML-N bandwagon will sail or drown together as elder Sharif is in no mood to give up. Read carefully Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s unusual loud suggestion-cum-appeal to the treasury members Monday evening as they voted to pave way for his re-election as ruling party president. A self-acclaimed insider of the establishment in him wants all of them to save the system, and bring a person like Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif to the forefront. Mahmood Khan Achakzai rebuts the whole argument then and there, claiming it as an old wine in a new bottle. This was exactly what was put forward by former dictator Musharraf too, Achakzai believed. So nothing is doing.

There were no surprises in the National Assembly proceedings on the first day of the new session Monday evening. Anyone could guess that a divided opposition was going to adopt two different approaches when the crucial amendment under electoral reforms bill would be taken up that would allow former premier Nawaz Sharif to get himself re-elected as head of the PML-N. PPP, MQM, and Aftab Sherpao’s party opposed the bill and specific amendment in a lukewarm manner, arguing it was person-specific and could be nullified by the Supreme Court which had already disqualified the former premier. PTI-Sheikh Rashid bandwagon had other, more vocal agitational plans. As soon the main opposition speakers who opposed the bill finished their speeches, and Mahmood Achakzai was in the middle of yet another ‘mindful’ speech laden with historical anti-establishment quotes – local and international – the PTI young guns started booing and hooting him from the rear. They were quickly aided by ‘poor man’s entertainer’ Jamshed Dasti. PML-Q’s Cheema and PTI’s Amjad Niazi are always handy in such situations. So they lived up to their reputation. One could hear Murad Saeed shouting at the highest pitch of his voice leading the band, aided by Ali Muhammad and Mr Afridi. Jahangir Tareen was however acting like a ring master, marshalling his stock at a time when Shah Mehmood Qureshi is considered a ceremonial parliamentary party leader. Now Qureshi’s name has been cleared as candidate for the Opposition Leader in the Lower House as the going gets tough in number game. So as soon as the bill was taken up for passage, the PTI lot stormed the Speaker’s dice. Speaker Ayaz Sadiq remained cool and calm, as he has now mastered the art braving back to back agitational shows by the opposition throughout the last four years. Some more will come. But Speaker just focused and focused hard on the task and delivered in the end. Qureshi and

Tareen led the troops ferociously, but didn’t cross the red lines. Soon Qureshi retreated to his seat leaving the arena wide open for the party’s young guns to perform. Amjad Niazi, Jamshed Dasti, Murad Saeed performed well as they tore apart bill copies and threw the same at Speaker’s dice, and all over the assembly staff sitting just beneath his chair.

As if it was not enough, the trio of Amjad-Murad-Dasti started abusing the former premier as they wanted to provoke the ruling party legislators into a fist fight. A few of them like Rohail Asghar and the mighty Mr Baloch, safely the tallest and heaviest of all the parliamentarians, got tempted to take up the challenge, but the saner voices prevented a show down. Everyone on the treasury knew, PTI and Sheikh Rashid wanted a show down to scuttle the bill. So everyone advised cautions. A few moments ago Premier Shahid Khaqan had entered the House, and could observe elder Zardari sister Dr Azra Fazal in the company of Shagufta Jummani standing beside him as if waiting to join the PTI bandwagon. But it didn’t happen. PPP under Zardari sahib never crosses political red lines even when it is tempted to do anything under the sun to reclaim past glory. Alas….Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah and rest of the PPP and MQM members just stood up at their seats in protest. They didn’t want to touch limits. This was exactly Sheikh Rashid’s narrative as he opened his speech cautioning the PML-N bandwagon that the days of their rule have been numbered. Almost 120 days in total, he was gracious enough, making his speech one of the most hooted and booed on this day. Rashid changed many gears, tried many tactics, but the treasury back benchers were not in a mood to listen. At times during this brief discourse, PTI young guns came to his rescue. But the relief remained temporary and brief. Finding himself cornered Rashid announced to challenge this Parliament bill in the Supreme Court. One enjoyable aspect of Rashid’s speech was a brief moment when he taunted Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah’s discourse at the outset of Monday’s proceedings. As Shah had demanded a reversal of Sunday’s oil price hike, Rashid’s sense of humour could gauge as if it was a budget speech. PTI,

MQM and Rashid are now out to grab Opposition Leader’s slot. And PPP bandwagon has been forced to take a more conciliatory, low gear approach as far as opposition to the Sharifs is concerned. In absence of a clear-cut signal from the establishment, Zardari sahib is cautious and non-committal for days and weeks to come.

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