Forget the windy speeches and sob stories. The one-line message from Thursday proceedings of the National Assembly is: disregarding the raw passions of its base, the PTI government finally preferred to look accommodating the opposition, “with a large heart”.

The cool combo of Asad Qaiser and Pervez Khattak has prevailed. Although with his syrupy speech, Shah Mehmud Qureshi stole the limelight.

He rather appeared as the one and only sitting in this House, willing to travel an extra mile to provide some respect and credibility to appearances of a “functioning” parliamentary democracy in this country.

In this column two days ago, I tried to explain in detail as to why and how the assembly surfaced through the elections of July 2018 had begun to look like a joke. It pretends being functional without having any standing committee, considered essential for delivering the legislative business.

The stalemate emerged and perpetuated because none other than the Prime Minister was just not willing to let Mian Shehbaz Sharif head the Public Accounts Committee. He kept wondering, pretty aggressively, that how the younger brother of the former prime minister could effectively probe the financial irregularities committed by the previous government.

His position was passionately owned and embraced by the majority of PTI MNAs. The corruption-hating base of the PTI also supported it firmly.

As a result, the opposition refused to nominate their MNAs for the rest of parliamentary committees, unless Shehbaz Sharif was accepted as Chairman Public Accounts Committee. Still, the house went on ‘functioning’ in a business-as-usual manner.

After chairing proceedings of a bitterly divided KP Assembly in previous five years, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Asad Qaiser, instinctively knew that without some appeasing and assuaging the opposition, he could not expect smooth sailings in an explosively polarized House.

The cool dealmaker in Pervez Khattak firmly endorsed his position. PTI mainstream literally hated it. We were rather told in whispers that even Imran Khan had begun to suspect the appeasing behavior of Qaiser and Khattak. But both of them prevailed in the end.

In the closing moments of his wishy-washy and yawn inducing long speech, Shah Mehmud Qureshi turned too humble to confess that Thursday morning he went to meet the Prime Minister along with Qaiser and Khattak.

After intense pleading by them, Imran Khan changed his mind. He preferred to act graceful in the larger interest of furnishing credibility and functionality to National Assembly. Mian Shehbaz Sharif can now become the Chairman Public Accounts Committee. The opposition had no choice but to welcome the announcement with loud desk thumping.

Savouring the pleasure of scoring a point, the opposition MNAs conveniently forgot that one of their very vocal colleagues, Khawaja Saad Rafique, was not present in the House. The NAB had nabbed him two days ago and the Speaker had not issued an order to produce him in the House.

Even the day before, many hearts in PML-N felt agitated over his absence from Wednesday proceedings. Many of them rather bluntly told Mian Shehbaz Sharif during an in-house meeting that their party had miserably failed to agitate against his absence, effectively.

Vows were made that at the outset of Thursday sitting, the PML-N would stick to the demand of producing Saad Rafique in the House. Therefore, no other business would be allowed.

Asad Qaiser and Khattak knew what was coming. To prevent the possible din, they sought an appointment with the Prime Minister and eventually managed to get a decision that dampened the PML-N plans. Brilliant is the word, one must use for their management skills.

The PTI core will surely not feel good about it. The passionate admirers of corruption-fighting Imran Khan need time to realize that their leader has shown “elegant flexibility,” and that also just not for the comfort of the troika comprising Qaiser, Khattak and Qureshi.

He was persuaded to scuttle the feel of chaos about his government by multiple quarters and weighty persons, who must not be named by this salary-dependent reporter. Suffice is to recall the refrain: “It‘s the economy stupid.”

Pakistan needs a bailout package from the IMF. Since 1988, it has been clearly conveying to successive governments of Pakistan, except the ones not seeking strength and legitimacy from an elected parliament, that their respective oppositions must own the done deal.

Before taking oath as the Prime Minister in 1988, Ms Benazir Bhutto had to ensure the National and International establishments that the bailout package, negotiated with the IMF by the then finance minister of a caretaker government, late Dr Mehbubul Haq, would be executed without any ifs and buts.

The caretaker government of Moeen Qureshi also negotiated another package with the IMF before holding of general elections in 1993. Ms Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were the main contesters in those elections. And before launching their campaigns both of them had to promise implementation of the said package. It seems things are not different in 2018. We must expect more compromises and flexibility from Prime Minister Imran Khan, therefore.

 

PTI’s cool dealmakers prevail