Asad Qaisar, the national assembly Speaker, suddenly turned stern after dispensing the question hour and letting a resolution passed, expressing bipartisan sympathy and solidarity with Peoples’ Republic of China, bravely dealing with Coronavirus-triggered crisis these days.

Adopting the tone of a discipline-obsessed teacher, he forewarned the house that from now on, he would not allow any “personal attacks”; also, the use of derogatory language. Delivering speeches, honourable members of an august house must stay focused on the matter under discussion. He would not only switch off the microphone for members attempting drift, but also take disciplinary action against those who continue using “unparliamentary (read vulgar) language.”

Obviously, the Speaker felt the need of asserting his authority Thursday, due to mass scale feedback, his office might have been flooded with on the proceedings of the past two days. Tuesday sitting of the national assembly must have embarrassed many experienced parliamentarians from both sides of the house as well.

Things remained sober and almost focused during the initial hours of the Wednesday sitting. At the tail end of it, however, Omer Ayub Khan provoked the PPP members with a rude speech. One of them, Agha Rafi, even left his bench to reach the ministerial benches with clear intent of physically sorting it out with Omer Ayub.

Qaisar was certainly late in attempting damage control. Before coming to the issue of an unbearably high rate of inflation, currently under discussion in the national assembly, Ahsan Iqbal, a very seasoned parliamentarian from the PML-N, correctly referred to “odd” traditions that the PTI government has introduced for parliamentary discussions in “Naya Pakistan.”

As per the established parliamentary traditions, practiced all across the democratic world, a select number of opposition legislators deliver speeches, one after the other, on a subject of their priority. At the end of it, the minister directly responsible for the discussed issue stands up to make the “winding up speech.”

Since taking over in August 2018, the PTI government has been insisting that each speech from the opposition should get there-and-then response from the treasury benches. Doing this, it also deputed ministers like Murad Saeed to mock and demolish “the status” of specifically selected opposition leaders, especially Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. “One against one” contests during the “general debate” on various issues thus took no time to furnish the appearances of street brawls to all discussions held in an “august house.”

Immediately after the speech of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari during the Tuesday sitting, Murad Saeed took the floor for another time. The PPP Chairman had remained primarily focused on the issue of rising inflation during his speech. Switching to current state of the Benazir Income Support Program, however, he surely passed some taunting remarks against the person of Imran Khan,

Instead of demolishing the case that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had tried to build by referring to a plethora of figures, officially released by various government-run institutions dealing with fiscal management, Murad Saeed started by wondering as to why “the twinkle-twinkle little star” had been too shy of using, Urdu, “the national language.” He also mocked him for “reading from a script” that someone else might have written.

As if that were not enough, Murad Saeed repeatedly kept calling Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, “an accidental politician,” who took the command of his party on the basis of a “fake will.” The youthful minister of communication also sounded rude and insensitive while insisting that “stray dogs have invaded Larkana”, the ancestral city of Bhuttos, and the PTI government was committed to “cleanse” the said city.

Listening to his speech, I kept worriedly wondering how the PPP would react to it. And I felt doubly upset when Abdul Qadir Patel took the floor and tried to get even with reckless use of innuendo-laden language, which hardened ruffians of the rough neighbourhood of Karachi compulsively use to survive as bullies. But I can still not hold Patel exclusively responsible for his conduct. Murad Saeed had virtually asked for it by forgetting the reality of “what goes around comes around.”

Things remained too sober during the initial hours of Wednesday sitting. Dr. Hafiz Sheikh delivered a lengthy speech with sedate poise of an accomplished scholar. Often, the financial czar of the Imran government also sounded as if doing a power point projection to explain “macro-economic stability,” he claimed to have brought to Pakistan with the expertise of a technocrat.

Defending the IMF, however, he surely turned snobbishly rude. He was not subtle in claiming that our politicians were not trained to appreciate the delicate sides of economic management. They are not academically equipped to comprehend them and feel “jealous” of professionals like him, who were hired by prestigious organizations like the World Bank and the IMF, “purely on merit” and not for having “(political) connections” with influential persons and families.

We were indeed lucky; because, immediately after him Shahid Khakan Abbassi took the floor. This former prime minister is also an Ivy League produce. In spite of spending years in the heat and dust of real time politics, Shahid Khakan Abbassi always stays cool and restrained. In a subtle but firm manner, he mocked the “patriotic” and “merit based” boasts of Dr. Hafiz Sheikh and made us laugh with “innocently-put” questions highlighting the miseries of an average Joe of Pakistan.

Omer Ayub Khan certainly ruined the sober and smooth proceedings Wednesday. He is the grandson of Pakistan’s first military dictator, Ayub Khan, and is yet not willing to forget and forgive Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The PPP founder had certainly begun his political career by serving as a young and dynamic minister of the Ayub government in the 1960s. The grandson insists that to extract favours from his grandfather, the senior Bhutto would call him “daddy,” like a “greedy sycophant.”

Instead of staying focused on the current rate of inflation, Omer Ayub started his speech with a long lecture on history, aimed at describing Ayub-Bhutto relations in the1960s. He did not end there.

From the 1960s, he took considerable time to reach the 1970s and started extensively quoting from the Economic Survey of 1972 to establish that the economic scene of Pakistan was extremely bleak in that year, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came into power. Doing this, Omer Ayub conveniently forgot the acute damage, the war of 1971 had caused to Pakistan.

His lecture in history was merely aimed at building and drumming the story that the PPP is harbinger of bad news. Corruption and incompetence were the “default mode” of this party. Little wonder, “Mr. ten per cent (Asif Ali Zardari)” eventually took command of it in 2008 and “ruined” whatever was left good and positive about the economy of Pakistan.

The unnecessarily lengthy PPP-bashing that Omer Ayub indulged in Wednesday with contemptuous passion provoked many a heart on PPP benches. Agha Rafi could take it no more and thus we witnessed some ugly scenes.

With a thousand apologies, I have to forewarn that the Speaker would miserably fail to bring sobriety back to this house. Prime Minister Imran Khan proudly owns and admires the “fighting spirit” of the likes of Murad Saeed and Omer Ayub Khan. They feel no motivation to forget and forgive.

The PPP benches are also not crowded with self-denigrating “saints.” Many of this party’s legislators rather started their political careers as young activists, fighting street battles with their opponents and the police. You can’t force them to let it go by delivering rude and bullying speeches and with appeals for maintaining the “decorum of an august house.”

 

Handling with a ‘stick’!