It surely is time for the opposition parties to seriously ponder over the question whether enforcing a Senate session upon the government really helps them to build and promote the narrative of their preference. The Senate proceedings of Wednesday, furnished a firm “NO” as the answer to this question, if you ask me.

Like a novice to parliamentary battles, leading lights of the number-strong opposition in the Senate initially looked as if savoring the comfort and joy of victors. They felt too good over the fact that the government had agreed to only discuss issues that the opposition flagged for justifying the requisition of a Senate session.

“Political victimization” was the issue selected for an exhaustive discussion Wednesday. Ms Sherry Rehman and Raza Rabbani took full advantage of it at the start of the sitting for delivering hard-hitting speeches.

Faisal Javed stood from the treasury benches to respond. During the struggling years of the PTI, Senator Javed used to ignite and sustain passionate energy while behaving like a DJ for this party’s rallies and dharnas. Speaking for the Imran Government these days, however, he tries hard to act sober and mature. But never stops teasing and taunting the opposition by referring to “facts” that to him clearly establish the “loot and plunder,” the PPP and the PML-N had allegedly been indulging in during their turns in the government.

Instead of focusing on “political victimization,” he started blurting out figures to show that the Imran Government inherited a “bankrupt economy.” After deftly dealing with the presumed “bankruptcy,” he went on, the Imran Government was now focusing on stabilizing it. The ultimate monitors of the global economy, i.e., the World Bank, the IMF and the Asian Development Bank etc., were collectively acknowledging the current government’s focus on the economic recovery.

After highlighting “the speedy achievements” of the Imran Government on the economic front, Senator Faisal Javed switched to laugh at the crowd that Maulana Fazlur Rehman had assembled in Islamabad. He feigned being genuinely concerned about the “innocent students of Madrassas” that Maulana had brought, but “abandoned” them to endure the thundering rain and bone chilling wind Tuesday night.

Wailing over the miserable state of Maulana’s followers, Senator Javed also had to remind the caring sides of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Through writing a Tweet Wednesday morning, he had ordered the Chairman CDA to immediately rush to the spot where the JUI-F was staging its dharna. The City Administrator was further directed to furnish immediate and appropriate relief and comfort to rain-hit protestors.

As if Faisal Javed’s speech were not enough to burn many hearts sitting on the opposition benches, the government also brought in Murad Saeed. This youthful minister of communication is a hard hitter and had established the reputation of lynching the opposition with delirious speeches.

After getting the floor, Saeed stood akimbo to seriously wonder as to why Imran Government was being accused of targeting the opposition for “political victimization.”

With a straight face, the minister of communication kept reminding the opposition that the PML-N was still in the government when the Panama Papers surfaced in April 2016. The Supreme Court of Pakistan eventually took notice of these papers, due to the persistent struggle of the PTI. It was the apex court that decided in the end that Nawaz Sharif was “disqualified for life” for holding the public office.

The same court also asked for a deep probe of the “real source” of Nawaz Sharif and his family’s “phenomenal wealth,” Murad Saeed kept recalling with sadistic pleasure. Subsequently, cases of corruption were filed before an accountability court. It condemned both the former prime minister and his daughter for long terms in jail. The Imran Government had not initiated any case against any opposition leader, including Asif Ali Zardari, the minister kept stressing.

The former President and the PPP leader, Murad Saeed added, was also found stashing millions in “fake accounts” and sending them abroad through money laundering due to another probe that too had been ordered by the Supreme Court.

Throughout the bombastic speech of Murad Saeed, the opposition backbenchers kept protesting by nonstop yelling. Sadiq Sanjrani, the Chairman Senate, was implicitly accused of “unduly facilitating” him for badmouthing against the opposition leaders. The Chairman eventually succumbed to the pressure and gave the floor to Maulana Ghafoor Haidri of the JUI-F.

The government did not feel good with his decision. Its members stood up to register protest by shouting that Murad Saeed had not been “allowed to conclude his speech,” which they insisted was firmly based on “facts and weighty arguments.”

Senator Azam Swati, the minister of parliamentary affairs, kept threatening that not a person from the opposition side would be allowed to speak, if speakers from the government side were not given ample time to state their side of the story. In spite of its numerical edge, the opposition senators looked clueless about how to check Swati and the minister standing and shouting to support him.

The minister had obviously come to the Wednesday’s sitting after appropriate homework. The number strong opposition visibly lacked a well-thought-out strategy to counter them. The government surely stole the show by cunningly hijacking the day’s business.

I seriously suspect that after being checked by the aggressive conduct of ministers during the Wednesday sitting, many opposition senators might be regretting as to why they enforced a Senate session upon the government. They surely were not able to dominate the narrative here. Perhaps they need to visit Maulana Fazlur Rehman to learn some tactics for bouncing back into the political game.

The opposition had already lost “IT” in the National Assembly. Many lead players of the PML-N remain missing from there for spending time in jails. For the fear of NAB, the rest prefer to play safe and cautious. The PPP does not have too many vocal members in the lower house of parliament. It had also lost Asif Ali Zardari and Khurshid Shah to NAB’s custody.

So far, the Senate appeared as if the sole forum left, where the opposition could rise and shine. But Wednesday proceedings clearly showed that with appropriate homework, the government was now adamant not to let the opposition flutter, forget flying, even at this forum.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman appears too lucky in the given context. He is neither a member of the National Assembly nor a senator. Yet, for the past ten days he continues to savor limelight on our political scene. The crowd he had brought to Islamabad is yet not willing to leave, in spite of the punitive rain, thunder and cold it had been enduring since Tuesday night.

The ministerial team, Prime Minister Imran Khan had deputed to negotiate with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, does not seem moving to a win-win package to persuade the JUI(F)-connected crowd to call off the protest.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussien had left the active politics due to bad health many months ago. We could yet not find out as to who persuaded him to land in Islamabad, SOS, two days ago and hold parallel negotiations with Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Without getting into the how and why, one has to insist, however, that in the end only Chaudhry Sahib could furnish a “face saver” for Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

 

 

Doughty ministers hijack clueless opposition