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August 16, 2018

Opposition in the making

ISLAMABAD: Circumstances and political compulsions have finally landed Shahbaz Sharif in a full throttle opposition mode, agitation gear. He has to, even if Zardari-Bilawal led PPP tends to keep a safe distance from him, and treads a safe political path for all practical purposes. For now, the PML-N president launched a spirited yet short agitation on Wednesday afternoon in front of the premier in waiting, Imran Khan.

Himself a proven agitator, Imran could guess the situation on coming Friday, when election of the Leader of the House would be held. Only a day into his oath, by then. He has already chosen to cozy up with Zardari-Bhutto led PPP as the circumstances demand of a thin majority his upcoming government is blessed with. But needs to handle the real Opposition in the shape of PML-N, till PPP acts as docile one, in view of some understandable pressures.

A smooth sailing for a third in a row PPP term in Sindh being another major factor behind elder Zardari sahib’s cautious opposition mode. Then, PTI naturally feels comfortable when a huge opposition remains fragmented, divided.

Parliamentary norms in practice however demand a speech by elected leader of House, followed by Leader of the Opposition on election day (coming Friday). Then a customary hand shake, photo opportunity for both etc. Whether, political animosity going to diminish all those traditions? PTI brains need to seriously ponder over it, and reach out to the PML-N for a minimum workable atmosphere in the National Assembly, for weeks and months to come. Or, at least for the sake of saving the day, on Friday.

Ask saner PTI elements, they expect earliest possible positive vibes from their side, apart from casual handshakes. Otherwise, Shahbaz led League is in no political inhibition. They have to agitate as a matter of routine now, to remain politically alive for weeks and months to come. The Leaguers entered the NA hall an hour from commencement of morning proceedings. Imran came earlier, minutes later Bilawal Bhutto entered.

Wearing his traditional broad smile, elder Zardrai sb entered the NA hall around 12 noon. Four hours into the lengthy vote process, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq announced the eagerly awaited result. Asad Qaiser won, 176 votes he secured indicates the approximate votes Imran to bag. Khurshid Shah was humbled with 30 less, the sum total PML-N, PPP and MMA could amass. PPP could try for some more in the secret ballot process, but they remained low key, purposely making it a routine affair. Wasting no time after result announcement, the elected Speaker went to meet all opposition figures on front rows, including Asif Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto and Shahbaz Sharif. But as if former Deputy Speaker Murtaza Abbasi was waiting in the wings to strike.

Allowed by Ayaz Sadiq in the dying moments of his Speakership, Mr Abbasi rose and launched a frontal attack, accusing PTI of a fake mandate. From this point, it was all rumpus as PTI legislators hooted aloud, Mr Abbasi and PML-N ones responded in kind. Within no time, PML-N legislators, some of them carrying posters of jailed ex PM Nawaz Sharif, landed near the Speaker’s dice, but remained focused on front row where Imran and Shah Mahmood Qureshi stay put these days. Both tend to enjoy each other’s company now, as Mr Qureshi is handy as a seasoned parliamentarian when Jahangir Tareen could not make it, and stands disqualified.

Intermittently, Shireen Mazarri, Asad Umar and Shafqat Mahmood land as Imran extends an attentive ear. Then, the back bencher lot that only wants to make its presence felt, and shake hands with their near future premier. Most of the front running ministerial hopefuls however keep on encircling their leader as those still struggling to find the place in yet to announce golden list of ministers, want to be noticed at least. So this was a golden opportunity as the Opposition launched a surprise agitational attack.

So all of them rushed to become a shield, compelling Imran to ask them to clear the way, and lower down their unnecessary guard. As the opposition MPs nearly came to an arm’s length near PTI front row, Imran Khan vividly smiled, made a relaxing, inclining posture and didn’t offer an eye contact to agitators as party legislators kept on surrounding his seat. The atmosphere turned topsy-turvy assembly rules, decorum as some people from visitors’ galleries joined in. So sudden and tense was the situation that some PTI legislators felt compelled to respond in kind. But soon reality dawned as experienced ones reminded that it is now a complete reversal of roles, compared to the last five years Opposition mode.

PTI, now needs to act more sober, responsible. So what they did was the make a protective shield around Imran Khan. Wearing a black arm band along with party legislators who carried posters of jailed leader Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N president was earlier quiet and calm as he sat and cast vote in Speaker’s election.

Suddenly, he burst into action. Led from the front, raised slogans at the loudest pitch of his voice as party legislators aggressively repeated slogans with him, after him. So, friends and foes, finally have a feel that Shahbaz qualifies as opposition leader. Spanning a few minutes, the PML-N lot soon melted to its seats after playing it to the galleries well. It made their day.

The PTI, a stone's throw away from power, felt what it means to be on the treasury benches. All this time, Bilawal Bhutto, Asif Zardari and rest remained the curious onlookers – calm and calculated. They knew well this is not their agitation – at least for now. But PPP, after securing PML-N votes in Speaker’s election, seems perplexed how to avoid a premiership vote for Shahbaz Sharif despite signals to this effect by none other than Bilawal himself, this morning.

Especially, when the PML-N is in no mood to withdraw Shahbaz’s candidatures, and all of them know the expected victor on Friday – Imran Khan. Hope Zardari-Bhutto duo opt for fair play, sportsman spirit as they cozy up with Imran and avoid the PML-N in these special times, circumstances. The dream of a strong opposition can take a back seat for now.