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National

December 12, 2017

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NA opposition seizes opportunity to agitate

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ISLAMABAD: As if the recently well-planned and executed Faizabad sit-in by a few hundreds rag-tag religio-sectarian people, and the likely upcoming Qadri-PTI dharna part II (in any form) were not enough.

The agitation hardy Opposition in the National Assembly has found, or given, a new reason to agitate. So the Khursheed Shah-led not-so-combined opposition intends to stage back-to-back agitation and walkouts from the National Assembly till the government brings the Fata reforms bill on agenda however, it was removed mysteriously from the agenda on Monday at the last minute.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq wants action against the senior bureaucrat apparently responsible for this technical delay. Is it so? Or is it simply making an escape goat. Despite repeated efforts during the past weeks and months, the Speaker has not been able to tame the top bureaucrats in absence of any stern action by the PM Secretariat. The Opposition is however pointing fingers at the powerful PML-N allies, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mr Achakzai for yet another delay in passage of FATA reforms bill. Both the respective party leaders were not present to witness yet another performance of the PTI young guns hand in hand with Fata MPs Monday evening. Deputy Speaker Murtaza Abbasi seemed clueless how to handle the fallout. This prompted Shah Mehmood Qureshi to deliver yet another speech laden with boring details and full of verbosity explaining all the data and dates related to Fata reforms bill since its inception. As Mr Abbasi tried to cut him short for obvious reasons, Qureshi jumped on to the core point. He wanted Safron minister to explain the exact reason behind this technical delay. The answer by a subdued minister Mr Baloch was less than explanatory, far from convincing, so this led opposition leader to come hard on the treasury in his usual sentimental, high on rhetoric and low on substance arguments and style. This was exactly the time when PTI legislators started occupying the dice just below Speaker's chair. Some of them tore apart copies of agenda before walking out amidst sloganeering. As soon as they left, quorum was pointed out. And as expected ruling party and allies were much short of number, 86 members required to complete quorum for a sitting. Everyone expects a repeat Opposition performance on Tuesday when the assembly sits in the morning hours perhaps with a slight welcome change if the treasury is able to complete quorum. It’s a big ask anyway. It’s a given, a new normal when Opposition of the present National Assembly stages a walk out on any issue the proceedings have to be adjourned due to lack of quorum. The treasury these days finds itself helpless about every other occasion to convince or compel almost one third of its total strength to come to the Lower House. And even when millions from public exchequer are spent daily on perks, privileges and salaries of MPs who are supposed to turn up at Parliament to represent the people who had sent them here. Ironically, ever since 2013 the present PML-N dispensation has been lack luster, careless in running the parliamentary affairs to its optimal level. But since former premier Nawaz Sharif’s ouster last July, voices of dissent at the back benches are on the rise.

Inaction, unexplained delays – regarding governance or legislation -- is a new normal during the last a few months of the PML-N rule.

Some of this mess can safely be attributed to the artificial political storm that may safely be dubbed as handy work of the elements who won’t like to lose their iron grip on this land of the pure. But rest of the ills concerning governance matters seem mere inefficiency of people at the helm of affairs. Ask any informed minister and he would tell you on anonymity that a lot of conspiracies are weaved around them and are still being hatched by political and hidden powers to bring the Abbasi-Nawaz dispensation to its knees. A general impression depicts they are already on their knees, but are sticking and not ready to give up as per strategy. The leading PML-N lights (minus an apparently relieved Ch Nisar) are treading a very risky, difficult path to improvise, resist and survive in these bad days. It is fair enough. Since last August’s G T Road march by former premier Nawaz Sharif was aimed at nullifying the fall out of Panama Supreme Court verdict against him, the powerful elements are out there with an agenda to weaken his party and government. They can’t afford a politically bruised Sharif to bounce back. For a three times premier playing almost a final round of his political innings can be very lethal on all counts. So a lot of precautionary measures were put in place to ward off the political fallout. Rumors of a large scale defection of MPs is taking rounds since then. And there is a method to this madness. First came the controversial list of 27 treasury members who were allegedly blamed by one secret agency for links with proscribed sectarian outfits. It created a lot of fuss and resentment in the ruling party ranks. Unresolved till date, the matter seemed more of an inter-agency war of words and propaganda. But the litmus test of the speculated large scale dissent in the treasury rank and file became evident when 20 plus PML-N MPs stayed away from the National Assembly on a very important day when combined Opposition wanted to nullify the piece of legislation that allowed Mr Sharif to get himself reelected as party president even when he was disqualified as member of the Parliament. A lot of carefully calculated thought process by top Leaguers resulted in naming former Premier Zafarullah Jamali and Raja Hayat Hiraj as defectors. Jamali is most probably eyeing caretaker premiership so he sided with the combined opposition that day signaling clearly he wants ouster of Sharif as PML-N president. Hiraj is a different commodity. An electable from South Punjab, he was part of the Musharraf-Shaukat PML-Q bandwagon as a junior minister. He didn’t get anything in the Abbasi cabinet, and seems convinced his prospects in 2018 political setup will be bright. Still he plays it safe till his group is not navigated to a safe political abode. Sharif family sources cautiously estimate that at least 50 MPs are being prepared by hidden hands who are just waiting in the wings for an appropriate time to strike. Before leaving for the present London trip Sharif was briefed by close aides about the whole conspiracy and MPs involved. Close aides are advising the former premier to talk to the dissenters personally and hear them out as most of them would like a personal hearing. On his part, Sharif is reportedly ready to meet and hear them out. But a leader in him is not to request or plead with them not to leave the ruling party in these troubled times.

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