ISLAMABAD - As the supporters of Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri have started leaving the protest venue day by day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday shored up more support for himself after the joint session of Parliament the close ranks behind him terming the protesters as rebels.
During the session, Premier Sharif had to listen to some bitter truth when opposition particularly Senator Aitzaz Ahsan reminded him of his prolonged absence from attending any session of Senate. Later, the two houses of Parliament came up with a strong support to defend the constitution against all odds.
The hurriedly summoned joint session of National Assembly and Senate that will continue for a week, comes at a time when PAT-PTI-led protesters had stormed the state-run PTV building on Monday last in a violence that has so far claimed three lives inflicting injuries to over 600 others.
As the government avoids confronting the protesters head on, Tuesday’s joint session proved to be a blow to the 20-day long march of PTI and PAT that is hell bent on resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The house extended a tremendous welcome after Javed Hashmi, the estranged leader of PTI, showed up at the session for the first time since his party took to the streets against the government on August 14.
In fact the house echoed with ‘Baghi’ slogans soon Hashmi appeared in the hall who later in his speech ridiculed the two protesting leaders on Constitution Avenue whom he was part just few days back in the anti-government long march.
Although the arrival of Hashmi was a bless for the beleaguered government, Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan and Defense Minister Khwaja Asif left their seats before Hashmi (the Baghi) blamed the government and PTI, PAT for the current political impasse.
Earlier in his speech, the interior minister as usual did not inform the house about his future action to tackle the protesters. Instead he asked the house to direct him by recalling the violence done by political activists, who he dubbed as rebels.
But Maulana Fazal Rehman, JUI-F chief, was the only member who categorically advised use of force against the stick-wielding protesters after several opposition members termed the demands of protesters as unconstitutional and extended support to the government. “Now it is obligatory on part of the civil administration to act and use force against the activists,” Maulana’s words rang true and realistic for the members who started thumping the desks.
Although the house demonstrated support for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif against the moves of Imran Khan and Dr Qadri and against those extending covert support to the marchers, yet he also had to listen to listen to the bitter truth about his style of governance.
The speech from the opposition’s side was actually supposed to come from the Leader of Opposition in National Assembly. But, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, known for his oratorical skills, grilled the government for mishandling the situation.
For nearly 35 minutes, Aitzaz showed the ugly face of PML-N to the house and recounted the blunders committed by its government from the tragic event of Model Town to administrative arrogance urging the government to wake up.
“Prime Minister, we support you under compulsion despite that our workers and some PPP leaders have not seen good treatment from PML-N in Punjab since the last six years. We support democracy in the larger interest of constitution,” Aitzaz said.
PPP leader and Chairman Senate Nayaar Bukhari, who is supposed to preside the joint session with Speaker National Assembly, was conspicuously missing on Tuesday giving credence to the impression that the ruling PML-N lacks wholehearted support of opposition.
Similarly, MQM too supported the beleaguered prime minister but between the lines. Two ministers including Sheikh Aftab and Lt Gen (retired) Abdul Qayyum were observed trying to convince MQM lawmaker Abdul Rashid Godel to speak on the occasion but in vain.
Instead MQM MNA Khalid Siddiqui stood up to criticize the government for Model Town tragedy although he later put his weight behind the government against the marchers.
But nationalist Mehmood Khan Ackazai and religious leader Maulana Fazl Rehman without mincing any words urged the army to purge the Constitution Avenue of protesters on the pattern it cleared Pakistan Television when the building was stormed by the protesters.
“If you can clear PTV building within minutes without using any force then please clear the mess from outside the parliament,” Achakzai told the house referring to military.