ISLAMABAD: The message from Parliament is clear. It does not want to rush into action, as the government does not want to take the charge and leaves it to Parliament to decide.
Ideally, the government would like to get the Constitution Avenue cleared of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri hordes. But it has taken more than a fortnight to forge unity in Parliament. Almost all parties seem unanimous in giving their consent to clear the mess before its premises. The PPP and the MQM might just want more time - coupled with concessions - to give their green signal. The PPP hopes to gain in Punjab if Imran Khan is seen losing the battle. It would like to see the tussle between the PML-N and the PTI to sharpen. In the case of the MQM, one can see a little reversal in the MQM tone after it returned to Parliament. Altaf Bhai has no affection for Imran Khan but Tahirul Qadri gave Altaf Bhai a perfect reason by ignoring his appeal to call off the protest. Fact is nobody likes to stand with the losing side and they think Imran Khan’s repetitive speeches and ultimate withdrawal from basic demand will be a setback for him. It remains debatable whether Imran is losing admirers or gaining ground from his daily diatribes.
Obviously, the government would like to deflect the attention to floods. It is banking on the situation where the PTI would look bad in celebrating here in Islamabad while the rest of Punjab is troubled with flood.
The PML-N government thinks that it will look justified if it cracks down after a wait of almost a month. If Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri fail to strike a deal the government would want to rid D chowk of PAT/PTI hordes ASAP. Khawaja Saad Rafiq actually said it in so many words when he appealed to Parliament to give its verdict on how to handle the PTI/PAT protesters before it concluded its debate, most likely next week. His appeal triggered a chorus of calls to “accept PTI resignations” from all around.
Parliamentary parties seemed upset over Imran Khan’s lethal attack against anybody who was somebody. The Skipper has not spared any party in his continuous tirade against the political class. As Khawaja Saad Rafiq pointed out that Imran Khan has declared as corrupt and tainted the scions and heirs of Bhuttos, Bacha Khan, Khan Abdul Samad Khan, Maulana Mufti Mahmood and of course the family of Nawaz Sharif. “Is he the only angel amidst our political class,” Saad Rafiq was fuming. Imran keeps naming judges, bureaucrats, journalists and people from every trade every time somebody whispers some thing in his ears or gives him a chit.
The latest outburst by Imran Khan accusing the Nawaz family of corruption seemed to have provoked the PML-N government into action. The government was upset as Imran continues to attract viewers because TV channels continue to show his daily rants. Saad Rafiq invited Imran Khan to have two-way discussion on his charges in Parliament instead of heaping his allegations in a daily monologue. But then, as Saad pointed out, Imran never had parliamentary moorings. He never introduced a single bill or call-attention notice when he got elected in the most rigged 2002 elections. And Imran continues to stay away from the parliamentary proceedings in the current Assembly also.
The PML-N seemed in rage. Saad believed that Imran was more suited to monarchy, as he had no understanding of how a parliamentary system works. He went on to rub that he was not even a political animal. Imran’s total experience of political movement was two and half days in jail and a 48-hour hunger strike. And here he was making fun of people who spent half of their lives in jails for principles. “He keeps his children away from danger and puts other people’s children at risk,” Saad Rafiq was at his vitriolic best.
He let the intention of the government about a possible action known when he declared that “make no mistake; it’s not that we can’t handle a few thousand rogues; we only want to try a peaceful way first and want Parliament to order us.”
This line of thinking was further confirmed when Ishaq Dar explained that the government offered in talks whatever was possible. The crux of his long explanation was: the PML-N can’t have its government and the Assembly packed up if the rigging in 30 constituencies is proved. The demand for the PM’s resignation and possible Assembly dissolution would be justified only if the PTI charges that the whole system was rigged in one party’s favour are proved. He was clear in his conclusion: the government would not budge on “malafide intentions.” Perhaps the PTI was over-stretching it demands, which did not match its leverage on the government. The only PTI/PAT leverage was that the PML-N government and Parliament was reluctant to use force - perhaps learning from the Model Town fiasco. But this might be a big gamble for Imran Khan. It makes sense for Tahirul Qadri to go down fighting, even if it costs a few body bags. Many ask why the PTI should ascribe to this agenda.
Tail piece: Senator Qayoom Soomro is perhaps personification of what ails the PPP. One would have expected some radical changes in the PPP after its total rout in the last elections. But the Wattoos and Tappis continue to rule the roost. Soomro got rewarded because he had served Asif Zardari in jail. He had no affiliation with the PPP at all. We knew him as the person whose sole job was to serve tea, samosas—always with ketchup—whenever somebody visited Asif in jail. That he was made political secretary of President Zardari was much bigger reward for serving samosas. He virtually ran the PPP government on behalf of Asif while allegedly carrying his golden brief case. Or so was the impression he gave. He was more rewarded recently when he was made the Senator ignoring PPP veterans like Aziz Memon, Masroor Ahsan, ND Khan, to name a few who gave their lives to jails and torture. It was obvious from his eulogy of Asif Zardari that he was matchless in the art of sycophancy. Senatorship for a piece of samosa—not a bad deal. Jiay Bhutto.