Things certainly turned extremely ugly during the joint parliamentary sitting of previous Thursday. The manner in which a definite group of backbenchers from the PTI and the PPP shouted at each other with innuendo-laden remarks clearly dented the collective image of our parliamentarians. “Our representatives” were rather seen employing all possible means of bullying each other like street ruffians.

Certain members of the national assembly were three days late in trying to restore their reputation Monday evening, by delivering guilt-confessing speeches. Firm promises of good conduct, from now on, were then proclaimed, pretty loudly. 

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, a former Speaker of the national assembly, did make a serious attempt to seek consensus for devising a code of conduct, compelling all members of “this august house” to refrain from insulting each other with personal attacks and to always stay focused on discussing issues of utmost public importance.

But hardly a few minutes after his passionately pleading speech, Murad Saeed, the hard-hitting minister of communication, took the floor to affirm the reality that peace and mutual respect were just not possible in a deeply polarized house. 

He got the floor, apparently to state nothing but facts regarding the construction of a highway that would connect Dir with Chitral via Chakdara. Instead of sticking to the issue, he began his speech to inform the house that his bête noire, the PPP, had been trying to project some TV channels and anchors as “anti-Sindh,” who consistently put tough questions to perennially deteriorating state of civic structures in Karachi.

His speech provoked Abdul Qadir Patel of the PPP to respond with a lengthy speech. He kept insisting that by viciously mocking the PPP leadership, Murad Saeed and a peculiar group of PTI backbenchers were actually “asking for it.” Fahim Khan, a vocal PTI MNA from Karachi wanted to score counter points. But the PPP pointed out the lack of quorum and the house had to be adjourned until Tuesday. We were back to square one, for sure.

At the outset of Monday sitting, Maulana Assad Mehmud, the parliamentary leader of Jamiat-e-Ulma-e-Islam (JUI-F), set a new precedent “to protest in the house.” Instead of taking the seats, allotted to him and his colleagues, he opted to sit in the gallery, reserved for the Speaker’s guests. Asad Qaisar, felt extremely annoyed and uncomfortable about it. But Amir Dogar, the Chief Whip of the ruling party, pleaded for a short break to seek peace with the son and political heir of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. The session after the short break began with his speech.

Asad Mehmud and his party strongly feel jilted by two main opposition parties of the opposition, the PML-N and the PPP. The JUI (F) suspects that in spite of pretending as if being divided on either/or basis, both these parties “slavishly” facilitated the government to get a set of significant laws “passed in haste,” during the previous week.

This was not the first time that this party of our religious-right had felt “betrayed.” After many months of diligent homework, Maulana Fazlur Rehman had also brought an impressive crowd of devoted cadres to Islamabad late last year. He came here with the intent of extracting the resignation of Imran Khan from the prime minister’s office.

In spite of being a very shrewd politician, Maulana Fazlur Rehman had obviously committed the blunder of presuming that the PML-N and the PPP would wholeheartedly support his march. But Shehbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari merely delivered “welcome speeches” when he reached Islamabad and left the JUI-F picket in visible limbo. Maulana Fazlur Rehman had to leave Islamabad in sheer embarrassment. Since then, he continues to feel quite bitter about the real or alleged ‘betrayal,” he has faced from his “erstwhile friends.”

Some of his diehard loyalists rather continue to claim in whispers that both the opposition parties used the JUI-F march to seek “relief” for their leaders. Nawaz Sharif “ managed to leave Pakistan, on health grounds” in spite of spending time in jail for a serious charge of corruption. Asif Ali Zardari got out on bail for the same reasons.

With the advent of this month, both these parties made afresh moves that compelled media to hype about a “grand alliance of the opposition, all set to take to the streets to get rid of the Imran government.” Eventually, nothing moved on the said front.

The government rather began persuading the opposition that it should help the smooth passage of a set of laws, it believed, Pakistan was needing on SOS basis,to get itself out of the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Initially the main opposition parties, especially the PPP, didn’t look willing to cooperate; they rather threatened to forcefully resist the passage of these laws. But as a wily politician, Shah Mehmud Qureshi, played a brilliant stroke to call their bluff in the end.

While the attempts to “build consensus” on FATF-related laws were still on, ostensibly, he had walked into the assembly for delivering a thundering speech. Through the same, he savagely spun the story that instead of helping the government in getting Pakistan out of the FATF’s grey list, the opposition was pressing the government to turn “soft on accountability.” Prime Minister Imran Khan was, however, not willing to concede an inch on this issue. “After all, fighting corruption remains the key agenda of his politics,” Qureshi kept stressing.

Amazingly, his hawkish and reputation-demolishing speech did not stall “consensus building” for the smooth passage of FATF-related laws. A series of discreet late night meetings rather persuaded the main opposition parties to continue negotiating with government representatives. Finally, the government adopted around two- dozen amendments, proposed by the opposition in FATA-related laws. The JUI-F was kept out of the loop; so were some ‘nationalist parties’ from Balochistan. Even the Jamaat-e-Islami felt abandoned in the process.

During the passage of FATA-related laws, Maulana Asad Mehmud and Siraj-ul-Haq kept pleading for the floor to express their reservations on these laws. The chair firmly refused to recognize them and FATF-related laws certainly looked as if passed “by consensus.”

Almost four days after the done deal, the Speaker decided to let Mehmud speak. His speech did not furnish a clear-cut and comprehensive position against FATF-related laws. Yet, it vaguely attempted to suggest that Pakistan had been “bullied” by usual forces, considered hostile to Islam, to mindlessly rush to the passage of these laws. He also dropped heavy and bitter hints to project the feeling that instead of showing the firm defiance of such forces, both the main opposition parties preferred to act as “facilitators and collaborators” of the Imran government.

At least five FATF-related laws still need approval from the national assembly. They were prominently put on the agenda, set for the Monday sitting. But the Speaker only asked the parliamentary secretary to table the standing committee reports on the proposed laws and did not rush to call for vote to get them approved. Not a person from the ministerial benches was willing to explain why the passage of these laws had been deferred. The active parliamentarians from the PML-N and the PPP were not willing to tell the real story.

I have it from reliable sources that a law, related to “money laundering” was proving to be the new bone of contention between the government and the main opposition parties. The standing committee on Finance had “decided” to include the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), as one of the “agencies,” combating the crime of money laundering. The opposition hates the said outfit and once against threatened to resist.

While finishing this piece, I also got it from a reliable source that the Speaker had again invited the government and opposition representatives to meet at his home late Monday evening to manage consensus on contested clauses of the rest of FATF-related laws.