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June 20, 2019

Disorderly business


June 20, 2019

From jails or NAB detention centres, the country’s prominent political leaders continue to affect the national scene. Members of the PML-N and the PPP make avid demands each day that Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, Khawaja Saad Rafique of the PML-N and members of the NA from the tribal areas under arrest be allowed to take part in parliamentary proceedings. But it does not seem as though anyone is ready to listen to them. The failure to produce them has already created acrimony within the NA and there have been reports that Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that members of parliament should not be demanding that they hear from ‘corrupt’ leaders. PM Khan has also asserted protests intended to hinder government will not be tolerated. The NA meanwhile remained in a state of near chaos for at least four days, with the PTI itself oddly enough choosing to disrupt the budget session soon after presenting the budget. It is hard to understand why the ruling party fails to realise that a healthy, lively and well-conducted budget debate would most benefit its own government and should therefore be encouraged at all costs. This is why news that senior parliamentarians agreed on Wednesday that order must return was most welcome.

Outside the House, we see a new dynamic emerge within the two main opposition parties, as Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari effectively take charge of their respective parties. The two met at Jatti Umra in Lahore last Sunday. Their main point of convergence at present revolves around the situation of their fathers, both under arrest. Both Bilawal and Maryam naturally seek their release. The agenda for now is limited, although there has been a call for an agitation against the PTI. It would be good news if the PML-N and the PPP, as the two most experienced parties in the country, could produce a genuine new leadership. Such a leadership must come from beyond immediate family lineages. This would fall into step with the essential demands of democracy and perhaps help us move away from the damaging dynastic politics of the past.

For now, though, the dynasties remain in place. And the ruling party must understand that the lack of harmony between political parties and the increasingly divisive politics we are currently seeing can only lead to more chaos. This would benefit no one at all. The government needs to take charge of affairs and most of all demonstrate that it is capable of offering the kind of governance the country needs and its people desire.

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