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November 22, 2017

For PML-N’s defeat of opposition move was the only option


November 22, 2017

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The ruling PML-N had to defeat Opposition’s bill on Tuesday. There was neither an escape, nor a surrender option on the table. First, because the joint opposition legislation was aimed at dislodging its top leader Nawaz Sharif as party head. And then propagate cracks, weaknesses in the ranks and file of the ruling party – a much desired political fodder for PTI and PPP for weeks and months ahead. At the same time, a recipie for disaster for treasury and allies in run upto 2018 elections. A defeat on the bill would have been nothing short of a doomsday scenario of the PML-N. By defeating Opposition’s bill aimed at specifically blocking deposed premier Nawaz Sharif’s ascendency as party chief, the ruling party has for now moved quickly to cover its parliamentary flanks. Sharifs, ministers, every other law maker know fully well they are in a bargaining position with the powers that be till their parliamentary strength is intact. And will be an easy prey as soon as cracks are wide open, visible in their rank and file. Law making intricacies apart, Tuesday’s exercise was actually carried out by PPP-PTI brains in the wake of prodding by some powerful quarters to test political nerves, parliamentary strength as well as internal cohesion of the ruling party. The debate surrounding strengthening of democracy and institutions apart, every politician across the treasury-opposition divide wants to have his pie of the cake in the post-2018 set-up. And in the process acting like a pack of wolves – ready to pounce on each other’s flesh and bones come what may. For now, the Sharif-Abbasi cooperation and team work seems to have won the first round. They don’t face the threat of immediate elimination. Mainly because they are bent on passing this difficult time, complete the five-year term even when they find a badly squeezed space to govern. But they are mindful of greater challenges that lie ahead not in distant future, but within this

December-January period. Though quorum issues have been chronic throughout the last four and a half years of the present National Assembly, but it had compounded since last August as the then Leader of the House was deposed and sent packing. Eversince, Nawaz Sharif has been down, but not out.
The opposition launched its last ditch effort to remove former premier Sharif as PML-N party head through legislation of the Parliament. Opposition could only muster 98 against treasury’s 163 on this days. Now some of the leading opposition lights would impatiently look towards the apex court, if and when it reviews this law.
The big question for the treasury for now is how to deal with 20 plus silent 'defectors' who didn’t turn up in the Lower House even after repeated reminders. Is Raza Hayat Hiraj their leader? But he seems too small a fry to lead the pack. For now, the PML-N top notch leaders estimate that within a few days and weeks these silent defection suspect legislators could be ‘blessed’ with a voice. Soon, they are sure, the 20-odd defection suspects would come in the open under the banner of a new leader. That rebel leader would immediately start work to test the ruling party’s parliamentary party strength. A noticeable weakness, major defection would set the ball rolling as challenges in the greater political arena still haunt the Sharif-Abbasi rule for weeks and months to come. A major take away from Tuesday’s National Assembly proceedings – no major defection in the PML-N ranks despite predictions and doomsday scenario painted by certain quarters. But the wider picture is not that rosy. A rough estimate puts the actual figure of legislators actually being termed as silent defectors to 20 plus. Those who didn’t turn up would be issued show cause notices. That would give political adversaries to exploit this weakness and crack. At the same time, the situation at hand has provided the PML-N an opportunity to gauge its weaknesses and strengths that prompted these open and silent defections to prepare for any such eventuality to come in the weeks and months ahead.
The National Assembly bustled with unusual activity on Tuesday evening. Everyone could predict the fate of opposition’s bill from the word go especially when the attendance at PML-N’s rare parliamentary meeting counted 160 plus members. Opposition’s leading lights – PPP’s Khursheed Shah, Naveed Qamar and PTI’s Shah Mahmood – knew the fate of their bill. But they didn’t want to miss the media frenzy crafted around the whole activity. Naveed Qamar, despite being mover of the bill, was brief and to the point. Shah Mahmood’s discourse was laden with verbocity, political rhetoric and nothing more. He was just looking to avail as much time as possible. In the process, he also tested patience of speaker Ayaz Sadiq who was all geared up to meet challenges of the day. A smooth proceeding without any opposition’s boycott or protest was top agenda in the mind of the Speaker. And he got it in the end. Law Minister Zahid Hamid, under pressure from Faizabad sit-in protestors to resign, was however cold and smooth as ever as he countered opposition’s legislative bill.
But Minister Saad Rafiq stole the limelight from treasury’s side as he asked the combined opposition not to toe any hidden agenda to weaken the democratic dispensation. The opposition, especially back benchers, were not in a mood to listen. Same was the case with treasury rear benches who seemed more charged up, rowdy and nasty on this day. It was a sort of tit for tat as both sides continued to taunt, raise slogans against each other throughout the two hours plus proceedings on the bill. Former Premier Zafarullah Jamali however remained the lone open deserter of the ruling camp. He stood for the bill siding with the opposition parties. An aging Jamali sahib has already made it known to everyone he is quitting the PML-N. But what did he get from such an open display of defiance for the Sharif. Many suspect a role as caretaker premier for 2018. Is it worth it Jamali sahib?

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