Driving to the National Assembly Wednesday morning, stupid me seriously imagined that our Foreign Minister might volunteer a statement at the outset of its proceedings.

Via the anticipated statement, Shah Mehmud Qureshi could explain to “public representatives” as to why the US felt compelled to include Pakistan into the list of countries, Washington believed were not ensuring religious freedom to their citizens.

For solid reasons the State and the Government of Pakistan must feel hurt and offended by this inclusion, announced by the US Secretary of State on Tuesday.

After all, only some weeks ago the Supreme Court of Pakistan had passed a historic judgment. That found no legal grounds to punish a poor and hapless woman from a minority community for allegedly committing blasphemy. And the decision came after a deeply agonizing and nation-polarizing delay, stretched to almost a decade.

A definite group of “religious scholars” turned furious after this decision. For more than two days, they incited the enraged mobs to block traffic all across Pakistan. The same group also tried hard to portray the political and the military leadership as if “defying and violating the fundamentals of Islam” by accepting the said decision.”

They were even blamed for collaborating with the “enemies of Islam” by presumably “managing and facilitating” the said decision. It surely was a clear call to mass scale rebellion against the State of Pakistan.

In utter panic, the PTI government was forced to sign an appeasing agreement to restore calm. But after waiting for a while it nabbed the top leadership of arson-inciting outfit. It continues to express the resolve of trying these leaders under serious charges. Pakistan did not deserve to be put in the announced list in the context of these recent events.

Not one person sitting in this assembly appeared upset, however. Malik Amar Dogar, the Chief Whip of the ruling party, was rather complaining to the Minister in-charge of Highways over the lack of “appropriate service facilities” on the motorway that connects Peshawar with Multan, when I reached the press lounge.

Abdul Qadir Patel, a PPP MNA, wanted to find out through a point of order as to why CNG stations in Karachi were closed to ensure gas supply to domestic consumers in the rest of the country. Our Constitution clearly states that the gas produced in a province will first be used to fulfill the needs there. He got but a dilly-dallying answer from the Petroleum Minister. And then we returned to sickeningly oft-repeated point scoring and mutual muck throwing.

The NAB had nabbed Khawaja Saad Rafique on Tuesday after many months of he eluding the arrest. He is accused of owning a housing society in Lahore and making millions out of it thanks to “dubious patronage” of the Punjab Government, when it was headed by Shehbaz Sharif.

This scribe has no competence to comment on the validity of charges levelled against Saad Rafique. Yet, the fact remains that he happens to be an elected member of the National Assembly and Rule 105 of conducting business there provides him with certain rights and privileges.

Shahid Khaqan Abbassi, a former prime minister, primarily stood to recall these rights. The Speaker, no doubt, should have been instantly informed about Saad’s arrest. Even after this, he also has the right to attend the ongoing session. Mian Shehbaz Sharif, the Opposition Leader, is availing the same right since his arrest two months ago.

Fawad Chaudhry, the information minister, felt delighted over the raising of an essentially procedural issue. As usual, he stood to viciously taunt and mock members sitting on the opposition benches. Sticking to his party’s favorite narrative, he went on and on to spin the story that most opposition members feel deeply guilty for their doings in the past.

Many of them are fearfully waiting for their own nabbing by the NAB. It was not for the love of Saad Rafique that they look upset over his ordeal.

NAB is an autonomous body. It is constitutionally mandated to get the corrupt politicians. The PTI’s struggle and their key message was also against corruption. Its government could just not afford to protect and furnish any kind of relief for the corrupt types wanted by the NAB.

From the ministerial benches, Shafqat Mehmud and Murad Saeed fully backed him by drumming the message that previous governments of the PPP and the PML-N recklessly indulged in massive corruption during their days in power. Now was the time to make them accountable and people of Pakistan feel no sympathy for the likes of Saad Rafique.

Hawking their favorite narrative against corruption, these ministers were certainly conscious of the fact that their self-righteous thundering was shown live on 24/7 channels. They were catering to accumulated rage of the mass of people against “corrupt politicians”. With visibly contemptuous smirks and sadistic pleasure, the PTI members felt too pleased with opposition-hitting speeches of their ministers.

It surely is time for the PML-N and the rest of opposition members to realize that for many months to come their wailings against the doings of NAB from the floor of National Assembly will provide no solace to them. By protesting, they rather facilitate the PTI government to divert attention from its own performance and loudly revert to its anti-corruption posturing.

The opposition needs to wait for the moment, with some grace, when anti-corruption stance and posturing of the PTI are set to hit by the law of diminishing utility. Until then, it is a long winter of discontent.

 

NAB arrests eclipse NA proceedings