Things, indeed, look gloomy for millions of Pakistanis these days. Thousands are desperately seeking jobs to survive. Those who have some are struggling hard to protect them and the nonstop increase in prices of daily use items keeps pushing our middle classes to dangerous zones of poverty.

Yet, the scene looks really honky-dory for 342 fortunate men and women of this country, we are alleged to have “elected” in July 2018 to speak for us as honorable members of the National Assembly of Pakistan.

Friday morning, they were to meet for the third sitting of another assembly session at 11 AM. After assembling, they were not supposed to sit in the house for more than two hours; after breaking for Juma prayers, they were to leave for home constituencies.

Even to “work” for such a short time, not enough members were present in the house at the outset of the sitting Friday morning. The opposition had already announced that it would not return to the house, until the presence of those MNAs, spending time in jail, was ensured.

Asad Qaiser, the Speaker, had already signed the production orders for some of the arrested members. Doing this, he surely behaved blatantly selective. While asking for the presence of Khawaja Saad Rafique, he has conveniently forgotten that Rana Sanaullah was also a member of the “August House” he presides. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the former prime minister, does not want to relish his selective generosity. Asif Ali Zardari can’t leave the room allotted to him at a local hospital for around the clock monitoring of his health status; the same is almost the case with Syed Khurshid Shah of the PPP.

Khawaja Saad Rafique remained the one and only, we were expecting in the house Friday. His “keeper”, apparently the Punjab Government, is just not willing to execute the order, duly passed by the Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan. The same government, however, takes no time to produce Hamza Shehbaz Sharif in the Punjab Assembly, whenever the custodian of that house, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, orders for it.

Irony is that Chaudhry Pervez Elahi does not represent the PTI; he rather leads the Q faction of Pakistan Muslim League and thus considered a weighty ally of the PTI government, both in Punjab and Islamabad.

Asad Qaiser, on the other hand, is one of the founder members of the PTI from Swabi. The PTI-led government of Punjab does not respect his orders, however. As if to express “annoyance over disrespect” shown to him, Qaiser has been staying away from the presiding chair since Wednesday.

Doing this, he continues to pretend like a “good cop” to solace-seeking opposition. In his absence, Qasim Suri, the Deputy Speaker, runs the house and keeps sticking to his reputation of an unforgiving schoolteacher. He had no choice but to ask for the headcount, though, when the lack of quorum was pointed out. Even after a 15-minute recess, the government failed to collect the required number and the house had to be adjourned until Monday afternoon, without dealing with one item put on the agenda.

 

 

The opposition can easily be blamed for not letting the National Assembly “function,” Friday, if you go by the appearances only. All across the parliamentary democracies, however, the government is considered exclusively responsible for ensuring the quorum after summoning a parliamentary sitting. The office of “the Whip” had been introduced, essentially to “discipline” legislators sitting on the government benches. And the incumbent one, Amir Dogar, does not seem too motivated to stay vigilant.

Like it or not, Prime Minister Imran Khan firmly believes that “looters and plunderers,” even after getting elected to the National Assembly remain “criminals.” They don’t deserve to be treated like the VVIPs while taking advantage of their status of a parliamentarian. They must stay put in jails or the investigation chambers, after being caught for serious charges of corruption and money laundering. The corruption-hating base of the PTI passionately supports this position of their leader.

Yet, the fact remains that the rules, regulating the National Assembly business, clearly empower its Speaker to sign orders for the presence of arrested MNAs. No government official can, presumably, dare to defy the orders passed by him or her. Defying or violating orders, passed by the “custodian” of a house imagined as if “supreme” in comparison to the rest of state institutions can also be punished as an act of “breaching the privilege” of an elected house.

In spite of having a combined strength of 140-plus members in the National Assembly, our opposition never cared to invoke the “privilege clauses,” however, to ensure the presence of their arrested colleagues in house proceedings. They only take the floor to wail and wail and then walk out to wait for assuaging gestures from the government. Prime Minister Imran Khan does not want to forget and forgive and the opposition keeps drifting in a helpless state of pathetic-looking limbo.

The Imran Government is also shy of furnishing an appropriate “legal” cover to its unforgiving rhetoric. It commands a comfortable majority in the National Assembly. In one sitting of the concerned standing committee, it can easily delete the rule that empowers the Speaker to order for the presence of arrested MNAs in house proceedings. It prefers bombastic talk-talk only.

 

 

Thanks to its self-righteous arrogance, the PTI managers of the parliamentary business also seem oblivious of the fact that many hearts have begun to burn, almost unbearably, on the treasury benches.

Most of them, of course, feel hurt for not being awarded with ministerial slots. As if that were not enough, almost each bureaucrat in Islamabad and the rest of the country also had stopped behaving “deferentially” to “public representatives,” since the advent of the Imran Government in August 2018.

The so-called anti-corruption zeal of the NAB had already crippled most of the bureaucrats. Now, they keep getting “categorical and firm orders” from the Prime Minister’s Secretariat that MNAs or MPAs must not be entertained when seeking favours, apparently violating “the merit.”

In multiple groups, fairly a large number of the PTI MNAs are holding late-night meetings in Islamabad these days, to trigger the feeling of “the attempts” to create a “forward bloc” within the PTI. In the end, it would not lead to “in-house change,” if you ask me.

 

 

But the jilted PTI MNAs would surely keep on embarrassing the government while staying away from the house and let the opposition make this assembly to look “dysfunctional” by pointing out the lack of quorum, throughout the current session.

 

Surely, the petty games, the fortunate ones of this country have the luxury to play on and on, while disregarding your and my pain with reckless contempt.

 

Jilted PTI MNAs and a ‘dysfunctional’ house