Rumors have been rife since Monday evening that legal wizards of the Imran government were “secretly preparing a very important law.” After quick approval of the Federal Cabinet, it would be sent to the national assembly.

Suspending all rules, ensuring deep vetting of any proposed law, the same would then be put for immediate consideration of the national assembly. Feeling confident about its numbers, the government was too certain of getting the same law approved by the lower house of parliament, without much ado. After its expected passage from the national assembly, the same would instantly be forwarded to the Senate for speedy endorsement. 

As an erstwhile reporter, often flaunting my “reach and command” when it came to reporting on parliamentary business, almost audaciously, I should have felt motivated to at least check the veracity of widely spread rumor. If proven true, there was no harm to find out the main objective and salient points of the expected law as well. But I remained indifferent.

While writing this column, though, I finally found out, courtesy pool reporting, that the expected law was finally put before the national assembly during its Tuesday sitting. It had not been put on the day’s agenda. But the opposition could not block its presentation for instant approval. Through the same, certain amendments had been inducted in Anti Terrorism Act. Apparently, the same were required to ensure Pakistan’s exit from the grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

It certainly is not the old age that has begun to diminish my curiosity and energy to discover stories that all governments want to hide. The real dampener remains the manner national assembly has been conducting its business since the election of 2018.

In spite of surviving, and also thriving I believe, with a razor-thin majority in the lower house of parliament, the Imran government continues to enjoy the comfort of literally bulldozing, whatever law it drafts in the name of “good governance.” Combined numbers of the opposition parties comprise a brute majority against the government in the Senate. But even this “majority” seldom springs surprises.

 

We are given to believe that diligent coaxing by formidable but unelected quarters compel the main opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), to act “responsible” and forget behaving like spoilers. Both these parties don’t feel embarrassed about this perception and even not feign to confront and refute it. They seemingly feel comfortable by ‘acting by the script.’Parliamentary proceedings are thus being consistently deprived of spontaneous and dramatic energy. They miserably fail to engage and surprise reporters.

 

In the given context, one felt doubly de-motivated after watching the national assembly proceedings of Monday. An incident of brute gang rape, at a highway connecting Lahore to Sialkot last week, had stunned and shocked the nation. “Our representative” failed to discuss the same in an appropriate manner. But they could also not disregard it, completely, to stay relevant to the game of politics.

 

After causally dispensing the given agenda, they finally came to discuss it with bombastic speeches during the culminating hours of Monday sitting of the national assembly. Instead of staying firmly focused to so many disturbing sides of the said tragedy, speaker after speaker from both sides of the house took no time to milk it for point scoring and blame passing.

 

Yet being an incurable optimist with a soft heart, I preferred to expect the Senate to appropriately discuss the same incident at the outset of its sitting Tuesday. To be fair, Pervez Rashid of the PML-N did appear as if wanting to persuade Sadiq Sanjrani to instantly take up the matter. But the Chairman refused to give him the floor and stayed firm for running the house with prescribed routine, which compels that proceeding must begin with the “question hour.”

 

I feel forced to also admit that Ms. Sherry Rehman and Raza Rabbani of Pakistan Peoples Party were movingly passionate and humane while discussing the Lahore-Sialkot Highway tragedy, when it finally came for discussion. But they certainly sounded as if delivering woeful soliloquies to callously indifferent hearts.

 

Speaking for the ruling alliance, senators like Mohsin Aziz and Barrister Saif remained stubbornly stuck to a well-thought-out “narrative.” This narrative couldn’t afford “underplaying” the incident at Lahore-Sialkot Highway. Acknowledging the horrendous sides of it, however, they quickly switched to remind us that brute raping of women and children were not “unusual” for Pakistan. Sadly, our history is replete with such incidents.

 

After candidly acknowledging the dark sides of our reality with a visibly hurt heart, they would then turn to accusingly wonder about who had been ruling this country for the past so many years. Why the PML-N and PPP failed to develop an effective policing during their long years in power? They also failed to sensitize our youth regarding the rights of women and children. The Imran government has just completed its two years in power, the ruling party defenders kept reminding. Fair minds must not blame it for incidences, which obviously were logical consequences of “bad governance” that PML-N and PPP had presumably brought to this country and continued to perpetuate it during their times in government.

Senator Mohsin Aziz of the PTI also travelled an extra mile to defend Umer Sheikh, the recently installed CCPO of Lahore Police. Immediately after the Lahore-Sialkot Highway tragedy, TV reporters had approached him for comments. Instead of furnishing any assuaging message, he recklessly uttered remarks, loudly reflecting the victim-blaming mindset. Civil rights activists felt enraged about them. In many cities, they held rallies to demand his resignation.

In a frighteningly polarized Pakistan of these days, however, characters like Umer Sheikh have powerful backers, defenders and supporters. The Imran government takes the lead. It strongly believes that during his ten years in power from 2008 to 2018, Shehbaz Sharif completely ruined the Punjab Police by crowding it with incompetent cronies.

In return the same cronies continue to frustrate all attempts that the federal and the Punjab government had diligently been making to ensure “good governance” to the most populous province of Pakistan. Eventually, to check the allegedly well-entrenched cronies of the Sharifs, Umer Sheikh was sent to Lahore to command and reform policing. His appointment, the PTI supporters insist,had alarmed the usual cronies and they continue to malign him by promoting “negative stories” about him.

The Sharif family is presumed to have developed the attitude of taking Lahore as their invincible ‘citadel.’ Some hawkish executioner of Imran Khan’s anti-corruption agenda strongly feel that Ms. Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter and apparent political heir of the former prime minister, had certainly tried to take advantage of this reputation last month.

During the previous month, Lahore Office of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had summoned her to answer some questions related to the purchase of pricey lands. Instead of reaching there like an ordinary citizen, she allegedly decided to “storm the NAB office with a violent mob.” Police appeared helpless in controlling the said mob and in panic NAB eventually felt compelled to announce that Ms. Maryam Nawaz could return to her home without appearing before it.

The hawkish executioners of “anti-corruption agenda,” vigorously believe that “by behaving like a royal,” Ms. Maryam Nawaz Sharif had in effect challenged “the writ of the state” and Lahore Police behaved like her “facilitator.” Umer Sheikh was thus sent to Lahore for conveying the message, firmly, that the Sharifs must prepare themselves to live like average citizens. They would no more be “pampered like born royals.”

Senator Mohsin Aziz firmly conveyed the same message through his speech in the Senate Tuesday and kept insisting that PML-N leaders were bad mouthing Umer Sheikh, simply for the fact that they could not “buy” this officer with “impeccable reputation” of having the enviable capacity of establishing the rule of law, come what may.

After attentively listening to his speech, I totally failed to motivate myself to find out what was happening at the national assembly, when it resumed meeting Tuesday evening.