The national assembly has been summoned to start another of its sessions Wednesday at 4 pm. But the government and the opposition were not sure how to go about it.

The confusion must not lead you to presume that the government had no legislative agenda to deliver. A truckload of ordinances rather need converted to “appropriately passed laws” on fast track basis. But either/or polarization between the government and the opposition blocked the smooth progress. Then came COVID-19, paralyzing the legislative process for more than three months.

With no solid progress on legislative front, the Imran government is still forced to continue with national assembly sessions. Our Constitution makes it obligatory that the lower house of parliament must hold at least 130 sittings in a parliamentary year. The session, which started on Wednesday, has primarily been summoned to fulfill the said obligation. That’s about it.

Too close to calling the Wednesday sitting, Asad Qaisar, the Speaker, invited the government and the opposition representatives to his chambers. Doing this, he pretended as if seeking guidance and consensus for running the assembly business in a smooth and effective-looking manner.

Until the previous session of the national assembly, which had ended on June 30, 2020, Asad Qaisar had consistently been behaving like a “good cop,” often provoking the PTI hawks to loudly protest against his “deferential dealings” with the opposition. Perhaps to prove his “loyalty,”he began to exhibit his stern sides during the last three sittings of the budget session.

Thanks to his deliberately adopted leniency, Ali Zaidi, a hyperactive minister from Karachi, ruthlessly took on the Peoples Party during the last sitting of the national assembly. He accused its top leaders of behaving like crime-promoting Dons. Widely quoting from reports, presumably prepared by Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) of various intelligence gathering and crime fighting agencies, he rudely kept naming names. His fiery speech ignited bedlam in the house that even provoked Syed Navid Qamar, otherwise a soft-spoken gentleman, to take off his jacket to convey the combative message.

After much pleading, the Speaker finally gave the floor to Qadir Patel of the PPP to respond. But his mic was instantly turned off, when he seemed to be launching a counter attack by taking on the person of Imran Khan. That forced the opposition to walk out of the house. The government continued to rush through the budget-passing

 rituals. At the end of it, the Prime Minister also delivered a long speech to reiterate his vow of fixing mafias, he believed, were pampered and promoted by the government we had in Pakistan from 2008 to 2018.

I am yet not sure whether the Wednesday huddle in the Speaker’s chambers helped Asad Qaisar in fully appeasing the opposition. At least the PPP didn’t seem “managed.” Raja Pervez Ashraf, a former prime minister, took the floor from its benches to recall what had happened on June 30 in the house with a visibly bitter and hurt heart.

Shehbaz Sharif, the opposition leader, continues to stay put in Lahore. Throughout the budget session, he kept himself confined to self-isolation after being attacked by Corona. People close to him report that he still needs another week of sequestering to fortify the virus fighting antibodies. In spite of having a significant number on its benches, the PML-N certainly looks rudderless in his absence.

Yet, whispers and wagging tongues ceaselessly keep claiming that ‘immunity building’ is not the sole cause of Shehbaz Sharif’s missing from the national assembly. He prefers to stay put in Lahore, also to discreetly pursue a deeply set game toying with the idea of managing ‘in house change,’ both in Lahore and Islamabad. For the moment, he is reported to be feeling “more hopeful about Lahore.” I would prefer not to comment on these claims.

At the outset of the Wednesday sitting, Khawaja Asif got the floor to express total support and sympathy for minorities living in Pakistan. It was but obvious that a recently triggered controversy related to building of a temple for the Hindu community in Islamabad had triggered his thoughts. Syed Navid Qamar of the PPP also supported him.

From the opposition benches, Maulana Akbar Chitrali of the Jamaat-e-Islami also got the floor. And his crafty speech clearly conveyed some highly ‘sensitive’ sides of the ongoing controversy. Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, the minister of religious affairs, conceded the government’s limits in this respect. But he did succeed to avert a potentially explosive backlash against his government by making some firm commitments.

Earlier, discussing the same issue Dr. Shirin Mazari, the minister of human rights, had sounded pretty guarded contrary to her reputation. I have it from a trustworthy source that some days ago, Prime Minister Imran Khan had summoned her along with another federal minister. Both of them were reportedly advised not to go OTT, when it comes to issues, which mostly the so-called “liberals” keep promoting in Pakistan. Dr. Mazari did sound heeding to the advice, somewhat seriously.

Omar Ayub Khan, the minister of energy, is not a novice to national assembly. He is the grandson of our first President from the Army, Ayub Khan, who ruled for a full decade from 1958 to 1968. Omar’s father, Gauhar Ayub, had been a veteran parliamentarian as well.

In spite of being a third generation politician, Omar Ayub has yet to discover that he can’t shrug the responsibility of tackling some here and now kind of burning issues, by repeating the pet narrative of his party, which holds the previous governments of “looters and plunderers” for ruining all forms and forums of governance in Pakistan.

He arrogantly failed to acknowledge the reality that these mostly were the PTI MNAs from Karachi and their allies from the MQM, who were loudly wailing over the long hours of power breakdown in Karachi and Hyderabad. With the advent of monsoon, thousands of the residents of these cities have been feeling as if being abandoned by the federal government. To protest over the lack of electricity, even some local leaders of the PTI and the MQM were forced to lead mob protests against K-Electric, the company monopolizing the supply of electricity in Karachi.

Omar Ayub did not sound genuinely concerned. He rather tried to pass the blame on PPP-led government of Sindh and tauntingly recalled the flood like scenes, which heavy rains always bring to Karachi. “This happens because the provincial government never cared to improved the sewerage system in spite of being in power since 2008,” he kept insisting.

Behaving like a deceitful child, he forgot to acknowledgethat thousands of the residents of Karachi were not getting electricity for long hours, primarily because of the grid and supply system. After taking over the Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation (KESC) during the days of General Musharraf, the privatized version of it hardly allocated sufficient amounts to improve the said system. The provincial government has no authority to intervene in this matter; only the federal government can improve things by invoking some regulatory clauses. But Omar Ayub never cared transmitting an assuaging message or maybe he is clueless about the authorities of his Ministry.

His visibly hands off conduct rather provoked an MQM MNA to forewarn that “soon” this “allied” party of the Imran government might feel forced to lead a march to Islamabad to forcefully convey the ire of the residents of Karachi and Hyderabad, regarding the unbearable and perennial absence of adequate supply of electricity to their homes and businesses.