Islamabad - To disappoint a sizeable crowd of thrill-seeking reporters, the secret balloting for the election of National Assembly Speaker did not spring any surprise Wednesday afternoon.

Both the PTI and its opposition maintained numbers that they had been showing since holding of the elections on July 25, 2018 and consequential alliance building with independents and smaller parties. There hardly was any hint of switching sides or covert waiting for it.

Imran Khan is thus all set to reach the Prime Minister’s Office with almost the same numerical strength, 176, that his nominee for the Speaker’s Office, Asad Qaisar, could smoothly gather Wednesday.

Representing Khurshid Shah during the ballot count, PPP’s Ms. Shazia Marri fiercely argued with Umar Ayub, who represented Asad Qaisar, over the issue of votes considered invalid. That tempted the press gallery to presume as if these votes were cast for the opposition. But the body language of Umar Ayub after finishing of the count suggested otherwise, forcing many of us to imagine that Imran Khan may reach the comfortable number of 180 during the election for the prime minister.

The surprise-expecting journalists essentially relied on the personal clout of Syed Khurshid Shah, who had been returning to each national assembly from Sukkur since 1990. They also suspected that many from among the PTI members were not happy with the nomination of Asad Qaisar for a high visibility office.

Both these factors could certainly help Shah Sahib. But his party was just not interested to stage any upset to begin with. Asif Ali Zardari firmly conveyed the desire for a smooth sailing for Imran Khan’s nominee to his MNAs. This annoyed the PML-N mainstream and many of them in utter frustration wanted to abstain from polling for the Speaker’s Office. Many veterans of parliamentary games from the PML-N prevailed in the end, though.

It now is the PPP’s burden to ensure that while contesting against Imran Khan for the Prime Minister’s Office, Shehbaz Sharif is provided with at least equal numbers that were counted for Khurshid Shah during polling to elect The Speaker.

Unlike the inaugural day of the National Assembly surfacing after a viciously contested election, the PML-N benches displayed a rebellious mood by chanting slogans for Nawaz Sharif and flaunting posters showing his grim face, during the session on Wednesday.

Before coming to the House, they had gone to meet their Quaid as well. But Nawaz Sharif was brought to an accountability court under suffocating security. They failed to meet and talk to him, and in protest wore black bands on their arms while entering the House. From their side, Murtaza Abbassi also managed to deliver a defiant speech while taking advantage of the opportunity of “welcoming” the newly elected Speaker to his seat.

The defiant mood on the PML-N benches also belied rumors that to please the alleged “promoters of Imran Khan from invisible quarters,” a group of 15-plus MNAs associated with Nawaz Sharif’s party was willing to vote for the PTI’s nominee for the Speaker’s office without being too open about it for now. Potential dissidents from the PML-N ranks were easy to count, even if not identified thanks to secret balloting.

The same did not happen. I rather have it from multiple sources that during in-houses meetings a big number of the PML-N MNAs were too harsh in criticising Shehbaz Sharif for maintaining what they presumed was his “soft posturing.” They wanted him to lead them with vigour. He seemed obliging to a visible extent Wednesday. Will he sustain the defiant stance, remains a question, though.

Even the PML-N hating group of journalists keeps insisting that Asif Ali Zardari’s ‘soft’ handling of Imran Khan’s party does not reflect his “pragmatic vision, even if there were one.” The fresh probe into the affairs of certain banks by the FIA under the watchful eyes of the Supreme Court is given credit for his “cooperative approach.” Anwar Majeed’s arrest on Wednesday provided ample content to their imagination.

Majeed, a known wheeler-dealer from the business world of Karachi, is considered ”one of the key frontmen” accused of managing “ill gotten millions of AZ and parking them in global banks and businesses via money laundering.” The former President and the PPP leader is expected to “behave doubly friendly” to Imran Khan’s government after Majeed’s arrest. I doubt it.

Around two years ago, one of AZ’s bosom buddies, Dr Asim, was arrested with application of a draconian law that was introduced to nab and to punish terrorists. While in custody, he was constantly reported to be singing stories involving Asif Ali Zardari in “shady deals”.

Then came the arrest of Uzair Baloch, a notorious Don from Lyari of Karachi. He too had reportedly spoken like a secrets-knowing parrot to help to catch AZ. Nothing happened in the end, though. They hype about his arrest rather turned cold after eager waiting for many weeks.

Anwar Majeed is a fresh entrant to the list of potential “approvers” that can help anti-corruption squads of our states to nab and eventually get Asif Ali Zardari punished by hyperactive courts under multiple charges of corruption. Keeping the past event in mind, I am not so impressed. Will rather prefer to wait and see.

 

 

NOTES FROM THE PRESS GALLERY