The PTI handlers of parliamentary business have certainly developed the enviable ability to smartly manage the opposition. And for another occasion Monday evening, they admirably displayed this ability. The government also succeeded in fully exposing cracks, increasingly deepening within the opposition parties. Even a very senior representative of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Rehman Malik, appeared to be playing ‘solo’ as well. But to be fair, the opposition had‘asked for it,’ with half-hearted attempts to act smart and hard to get. 

After all, previous Wednesday, Faroogh Naseem, the law minister, had profusely acknowledged the “positive cooperation,” two leading parties of the opposition, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), seemingly extended when it came to speedy passage of not one but five laws by the national assembly. He also kept repeatedly stating that adoption of these laws was urgently required to get Pakistan out of the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

It is a different matter that neither the law minister nor any opposition leader ever cared to explain the salient points of hastily adopted laws and their possible impact on our centuries old habits and practices of business transactions. 

Without furnishing details, however, some opposition leaders like a former Prime Minister, Shahid Khakan Abbassi, and Raza Rabbani of the PPP continue to sell the story that originally the government intended to equate all forms of ‘money laundering’ with ‘terror financing.’ That would have empowered the Imran government to conveniently ‘fix’ a huge number of very vocal and high profile persons from the opposition. But the vigilant resistance is presumed to have subverted the alleged move. 

Whatever the truth, the Senate should have also rushed to endorsing FATF-related laws, ostensibly approved,already, by the national assembly with near-consensus and active involvement of senior opposition legislators. Doing this, the upper house of parliament could surely furnish credence to government’s claim that the passage of these laws deserved the SOS handling. 

Most parliamentary reporters were not so wrong to presume that a hurriedly summoned session of the Senate would do the same by the end of past week. But the government didn’t appear too keen to rush for it. The delay certainly looked odd, if you consider the fact that the number-strong opposition in the Senate visibly behaved as if not serious or determined to block endorsement of FATF-related laws, or inject fresh amendments into them. 


By playing hard to get, some opposition senators simply wanted to convey to the government, and perhaps to their party leaders as well, that they must not be taken for granted. Being members of a separate house, they deserve some autonomy and respect, after all.


Monday is reserved for private initiatives in legislation and both the government and Chairman Senate let it be during the initial moments of house proceedings. The endorsement of FATF-related laws was also not put on the day’s agenda. For sure, the opposition didn’t expect any surprise. Muhammad Javed Abbassi of the PML-N dominated the opening hours. He was keen to introduce not one but three new laws and hardly a person had any objection to them. 


The first law, he introduced, wanted to prescribe teaching the Arabic language as a compulsory subjectfrom the primary stages of school education. Arabic, no doubt, is considered sacred by overwhelming majority of Pakistanis. It is deeply connected to our religious roots and identity. But English and Urdu are already held “compulsory”. We need to seriously consider the capacity of our kids, when it came learn languages.


Besides letting Abbassi to introduce his favorite laws, Chairman Senate also allowed Ms. Sherry Rehman of the PPP to deliver a hard-hitting speech, which loudly protested over the manner massive police force had been deployed around a court in Islamabad, dealing with corruption-related cases. 


Asif Ali Zardari, the former president, was to personally appear there. After many months of staying put in Karachi, he specially flew to Islamabad Sunday night to ensure the said appearance. He and his party also directed their loyalists not to crowd the court and roads leading to it. 


Yet, Islamabad police preferred to act extraordinarily tough and stern. Even his personal lawyer, Farooq Naik, could not reach the court. Perhaps the police seriously suspected that the PPP would want to repeat the defiant scenes, the PML-N had staged outside the NAB’s office in Lahore last week, where Ms. Maryam Nawaz Sharif was summoned to answer some questions, related to purchase of a large portion of land. But in the process, Islamabad police clearly went for the overkill. 


After the forceful speech of Ms. Rehman, the house took a motion focusing on the alarming increase of Polio cases in Pakistan. Delivering fiery speeches on the subject, the Imran government was brutally criticized for the doings of Babar Atta. He had been appointed the head of Polio eradication program, without having any qualification and skills for the job. The opposition senators continued claiming that he had bagged the high profile job as a huge favor, only for heading the social media cell of the PTI for many years. He was also accused of annoying donors for allegedly dubious management of a budget, stretching to ten million US dollars. 


Then the government suddenly announced the intent of getting FATF-related laws endorsed by the Senate. Most opposition senators did pretend being surprised, but soon it became too obvious that at least some of their seniors were behaving like this, only for the galleries. 


Doing this, they also wanted that senators from Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat-e-Ulma-e-Islam (JUI-F) and the Pashtun and Baloch nationalist parties must not be able to project them as “collaborators” of the Imran government. To furnish credibility to their game, they also recalled that during meetings of the concerned Senate committees, deliberating over the national assembly approved FATF-related laws, Farooq Naik, a very senior PPP senator, had pressed for the inclusion of some amendments. At least one more day should be given to the concerned committee to reject or approve the same. 


From the PPP benches, Rehman Malik, who also heads the Senate Committee on Interior, stood to clearly insist that Farooq Naik had only expressed certain reservations regarding a specific law; he had not pressed for “any amendment.” His statement was enough for puncturing the show of defiance the PML-N and PPP senators were trying to stage. 


The government certainly relished the last laugh due to it and the same also helped Senator Atta-ur-Rehman, the younger brother of Maulana Fazlur Rehman to keep rubbing in a very embarrassing question: why the PML-N and PPP were behaving so friendly, rather obsequious, to the Imran government?


Yet, the government and Chairman Senate preferred to show the large heart. After getting the two FATF-related laws passed, without much ado, they deferred to deal with the rest of them until Tuesday.