Saturday, September 06, 2014
Islamabad: Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are wrong on many counts but they do have a point when they say that Parliament has lost its way and does not address the basic public issues.
They must have felt slightly vindicated by Friday’s proceedings. The joint session that was called to forge unity among parliamentary parties against the onslaught of PAT/PTI hordes got reduced to a slapstick comedy. We saw it coming after Chaudhary Nisar went ballistic against the last person in the PPP he should have messed up with - Aitezaz Ahsan. We could not understand why Nisar had to attack Aitzaz on Thursday for being the lawyer of a “land mafioso” besides accusing him of accepting LPG quota as an undue favour.
This was in the middle of the save-Nawaz exercise where the PML (N) desperately needed PPP support. Naturally, the PM had to damage control by intense apologising on behalf of Nisar. But this had set the stage for a brute knuckle fight.
Many thought Nisar got offended by the remarks that Aitezaz had made earlier, warning Nawaz Sharif to be watchful of the people sitting on his left and right. Since Nisar sits on the left side of the Prime Minister he might have thought that Aitezaz had hinted about him. Aitezaz describes it as Nisar’s “Macbethan guilt” but it could just be Nisar’s mercurial personality.
But the tussle between the two goes much deeper. Both had been in the opposite camps for decades now. It was after a long time that the two got involved in a face-to-face fight as Aitezaz was either out of Parliament or in the Senate for the last 17 years. Also at work is the age-old rivalry between Surajbansi Rajputs (Nisar) and Warraich Jats (Aitezaz) from the pedigree of Punjab’s glory, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh.
His was evident when Aitezaz, in an earlier round in Senate, made fun of Nisar - a Rajput scion of Rai Ahmad Khan Kharal and Prithvi Raj Chohan’s pedigree -who ran away (to Lahore) from the gun-toting Sikandar (remember that maverick who held Islamabad hostage for hours?). Nisar shot back with equally ferocious remarks that caused the entire Opposition to boycott for over two weeks. The opposition got itself camped outside and made a condition that it would not return until Nisar apologised. No way, Nisar would not let the ego of Rana Sangha (another big name in Rajput history) let down. In the end, the PML(N) had to hire deputy interior minister in the shape of Baleeghur Rehman who apologised on behalf of Nisar to break the impasse. But to this day Nisar has not gone to the Senate. With this background you can imagine that Aitezaz had to score even not just for himself and his party but the entire Senate opposition. And trust Aitezaz for doing that ruthlessly.
Round Two-tnnnnnnn. Khursheed Shah tried to cover up for Aitezaz who was at the Supreme Court. Many thought that Aitezaz might let it go after Khursheed had delivered one of the harshest speeches of his life while Nawaz Sharif sat listening. But at stake was the honour of Jats that required more blood. Aitezaz got up and then ripped apart Nisar accusing him of conspiring to bring down his own government. He alleged that Nisar manoeuvred to make ISPR release a statement against the government and now wanted to break Parliament unity. Aitezaz kept himself within the domain of parliamentary vocabulary but it was definitely below the belt when, narrating a Micky mouse story, he made fun of Nisar’s wig. He even insinuated about Nisar being a “dirty rat.” He warned Nawaz Sharif that he lost his two earlier governments because of the same advisors that he has retained. It’s about time Nawaz gave chance to “so much talent sitting on the back benches.”
Aitezaz got a bit carried away when he threatened that “If I walk out from here, your government will fall and so will Parliament.” “Aina Zulm Jaan Dayyo (don’t be so cruel), quipped Sheikh Rasheed who had sneaked back in the House and was enjoying to see Parliament unity bursting at the seams. Rasheed knew the game was over for his rogues camped outside but was happy that those sitting inside were not victorious either.
It was scene straight from a street theatre. Nisar had his blood boiling throughout the long speech of Aitezaz, his right leg shaking more and more from rage. Squirming on his seat, Nisar could not resist interrupting Aitezaz by snide remarks that “why don’t you sue me.” Aitezaz shot back that “not only will I take you to the courts but I shall drag you to the cleaners.” Nisar was constantly being stopped by his colleagues but he kept staring at Aitezaz. “You can’t stare me down,” Ranjeet Singh’s genes in Aitezaz would not let him back out. Nawaz Sharif asked one minister after another to calm down Nisar and also to stop him from making a speech in response. Nawaz could not afford the atmosphere to get more vitiated. But Nisar would not stand down - not even when Nawaz Sharif asked him personally. He stood up to respond to Aitezaz while half a dozen ministers tried to stop him. It was a sheer display of what we call ‘rangbaazi’ back home on Lahore streets. A bully howls and yowls refusing to stand down while his friends try to dissuade him. It was clear that Nisar was determined to defy even his Prime Minister to defend his ‘Rajput honour’ - except for a divine intervention.
He was about to start his rebuttal, which would have been a sure recipe for disaster, possibly causing a loss of government for the PML(N) - the call for prayers had everything stopped. PML (N)-wallas were quick to take away Nisar and got the session adjourned. What a Maula Jatt show.
We all left wondering if and when Nisar will shoot back and whether Nawaz Sharif would continue to tolerate this more equal among the equals. Will this lead to eventual parting of the ways between Nawaz and Nisar? Whatever the case, the breach between the two is deep and not likely to go away. Rana ji maaf karna ghalti maro say ho gayi - not happening this time.