“Be prepared, we (the PTI) are coming to Sindh” was the message that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has conveyed to Pakistan Peoples’ Party, while standing akimbo on floor of the Senate Tuesday.

Transmission of this message with a thundering voice was disturbingly odd. After all, many of us were genuinely hoping that resumption of parliamentary sittings, after a long gap of around two months, might help the government to evolve an effective strategy for combating COVID-19, with solid and sincere input from “public representatives.”

The same message sounds doubly ominous, if you care remembering that the upper house of our parliament pretends being the ultimate institution, affirming the “Federal” realities of our state structure. All the provinces of Pakistan are equally represented here. Without the approval of this house, no government can enforce a new law. The bi-cameral legislation encourages and ensures inclusive governance. The smaller provinces don’t develop the feeling of being left behind.

 

Shah Mahmood Qureshi preferred to thunder and hurl threats, precisely the day after easing of the lockdown, the Imran government was forced to enforce all over the country to prevent the apprehended spike of Corona-driven pandemic, for more than eight weeks. The lockdown seemingly helped to elude heart-wrenching scenes countries like Italy have endured.  Yet, the easing of it has also frightened many who keep a vigilant eye on Corona-connected trends dominating the rest of world.

 

Prime Minister, lest you forget, had not deputed his foreign minister to actively monitor the Corona scene in Pakistan. Asad Umar, the diligent minister of planning, daily presides meetings of The National Command and Control Center (NCOC). Multiple outfits, responsible to watch over issues connected to public health and intelligence gathering, submit their updated data to this forum. With active input from all the Chief Ministers, a data-driven policy is then announced, “with consensus.”

 

Asad Umar should have been the first to speak for the Imran government, when the Senate began its session Tuesday morning. With a focused speech, only he could explain whether easing the lockdown could possibly lead to an unbearable spike, eventually crippling our capacity to deal with a pandemic. The fresh data could rather have helped him to convey an assuaging message.

 

But COVID-19, I am forced to insist, has miserably failed to capture the attention of “our representatives.” The national assembly sitting of Monday had already shown, clearly, that we remain a dangerously polarized society, where politicians are failing to forget and forgive. They remain obsessed to score points and mock at each other by senseless mudslinging.

 

Shah Mahmood Qureshi had also taken the lead to speak for the Imran government, when the national assembly resumed its session Monday. His selection for articulating the official narrative, in both the houses of parliament, explicitly conveyed that the Imran government did not want the parliamentary sessions to remain focused on COVID-19. It strongly feels proud of developing a presumably efficient strategy to deal with the pandemic, on its own. Prime Minister and his team also believe that they have devised a strategy, which continues to deliver. It rather was the time to flaunt the dividends of it, with deliberate intent of expanding the support base of the PTI.

 

After enthusiastically stressing the relatively lower rate of deaths due to Corona in Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi took no time to proudly switch to boastfully talking about “billions”, the Imran government had already delivered to daily wage earners and low income groups, to cope with lockdown-connected miseries. 

 

After an aggressive spinning of feel-good stories about the Imran government, the hardened politician in Shah Mahmood Qureshi subtly started building the narrative as if the Pakistan Peoples’ Party is feeling envious and threatened with this government’s effective management of the Corona-triggered crisis. Since the advent of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on our political scene in 1967, the PPP had almost been monopolizing the pro-poor narrative in Pakistan.

 

Through his passionate speeches at parliamentary forums for the past two days, Shah Mahmood Qureshi seems to be trying hard to make us believe that Imran Khan has finally established himself to be the one and only, who genuinely cares for the wretched of our part of the earth. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, on the contrary, heads a decadent version of the PPP, which is pro-elite and obsessed to rule Sindh like a captured fiefdom. To protect the “vested interests,” the PPP-led government in Sindh also keeps abusing the autonomy, ensured through 18th amendment of our Constitution.

 

However, being an experienced politician, Shah Mahmood Qureshi has yet not dared to commit demolition of the 18th amendment. Yet, he subtly kept referring to some of its “flawed” sides and continues to plead for an active reconsideration to correct them.

 

With the obvious intent of preventing a blowback, he cunningly kept dropping heavy hints to convey the assuaging message that the Imran government would still take time to go for course correction. It was a time to focus on Corona only, although the Sindh government didn’t seem “sincere” in dealing with it. He felt that it continued to blame the Federal Government for its problems, while recklessly disregarding the fact that all issues related to public health are now under the exclusive domain of a provincial government, since the induction of 18th amendment in our Constitution during 2010.

 

Shah sahib kept drumming the message that pro-poor initiatives of the Imran Government have increasingly persuaded the majority of people in Sindh to review their decades-old loyalty to Pakistan Peoples’ Party. The PTI has already emerged as the most powerful alternative to the Sharif-led PML-N in the most populous province of Pakistan, i.e., Punjab. Now Sindh has begun to look up to it.

 

One wouldn’t have felt surprised, if Shah Mahmood Qureshi had delivered his speech, close to a fresh election. But to reach there, we still need three more years. Daring the PPP to get prepared for PTI’s landing in Sindh, at this point in time, certainly sounded odd.

 

The speech, Qureshi delivered in the Senate on Tuesday would definitely furnish substantive content to rumors, preparing people for “stunning changes” in political scene of Sindh for the past one week.

 

Through a well-thought-out manipulation of the social media, a surprising name of once a very powerful person is being promoted as the possible replacement of the incumbent Governor of Sindh, Imran Ismael. Promoting this name, the disinformation gurus recklessly disregarded the reality that after induction of the 18th amendment, a “nonresident” of Sindh cannot be appointed as the Governor of thatprovince.

 

After this, a flood of nauseatingly incorrect stories was also unleashed about Asif Ali Zardari, through a voice note message on WhatsApp. I hate to discuss the details of these stories. One can only wish that Shah Mahmood Qureshi had been also aware of this insidious campaign. Otherwise, he might not have sounded so aggressive while speaking in the Senate Tuesday.