Forecast of a deadly showdown

Of late, like the US President, our Prime Minister has also begun to start his working day by posting a provocative Tweet, denigrating his political opponents.

Via a Tweet Thursday morning, he specifically targeted a specific set of politicians, who he believed get too upset when put on the Exit Control List (ECL), due to surfacing of corruption charges against them.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the youthful chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, was his obvious target and he took no time to responding with an equally taunting Tweet.

Later, he reached the National Assembly sitting as well to dare the prime minister for real time debates on floor of the elected House.

Syed Khurshid Shah, a very experienced parliamentarian from the PPP was totally justified, however, while stressing that the Leader of the House in a parliamentary democracy can’t run the government and manage the political scene by Tweeting only.

The Prime Minister must regularly come to the House to express his thoughts and appear willing to take apt and appropriate responses to them, there and then.

The vigilant politician in Syed Khurshid Shah must have discovered it by now that Imran Khan could no more afford abstaining from assembly proceedings.

By the middle of the next week, for example, the finance minister is scheduled to present a “mini budget.” Prime Minister’s absence on that occasion will certainly convey the message as if he does not “own” the economic initiatives tabled by his finance minister.

Imran-adoring MNAs of the PTI are not sure, however, that numerically formidable opposition in the National Assembly will “behave” when their leader is sitting in the House.

Clearly with the intent to ensuring clam in the days to come, Asad Qaiser, the speaker, asked for a sudden recess in the middle of ongoing business Thursday and invited the government and the opposition representatives to his chambers.

He returned to the House to dispense with the rest of agenda only after forcefully pleading to both sides that order must be maintained in the House by all means.

He appeared to have achieved some success. For, a compulsive flame-thrower from the ministerial benches, Murad Saeed, sounded surprisingly tamed and polite while responding to potentially explosive points raised by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari through a point of order.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari acted too wise by not giving much importance to the issue of placing his name on the ECL. Focusing more on a Supreme Court judgment, passed by the former Chief Justice, Saqib Nisar, in his parting moments, he rather hinted at brewing of an ominous crisis.

Taking advantage of the 18th Amendment, devolving more powers to our provinces, the Sindh government had increasingly been trying to take complete control of three iconic hospitals of Karachi, previously run, exclusively, by the federal government.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been keenly supervising improvements in one of these hospitals, exclusively catering to heart patients.

He seriously considers the said hospital, NICVD, as a “poster project”, displaying the Sindh government’s dedication to issues of public health. But the Supreme Court had directed the federal government to take full charge of it.

The PPP Chairman sounded passionately attached to this hospital and with a deep sense of wounded pride spoke for keeping it under the control of provincial government.

Doing so, he also recalled that the Sindh government had been spending Rs14 billion a year to maintain and develop the said hospital. He would resist its return to the control of federal government by all possible means.

If you think deep, the brewing controversy is not as simple as it might appear to be. At stake, in effect, is the fate of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, passed by consensus in a parliament that worked from 2008 to 2013.

This amendment had devolved power to provinces in a substantive manner. Issues related to public health and education, were virtually passed on to provincial domain.

A powerful lobby of local and donors’ driven oligarchs does not feel comfortable with this devolution. It strongly believes that provincial administrative structures were not competent and trained enough to dealing with complicated issues like public health and education.

The “corrupt politicians” habitually abuse the inherent incompetence “to plunder” funds allocated to these sectors.

The PPP has been crying wolf for many months on this issue. It rather insists, too vehemently, that non-stop din in media, projecting selective leaks from a JIT-prepared report on sensationally scandalous “fake accounts,” is actually aimed at demolishing the 18th Amendment by building a strong moral case against it.

By passionately pleading for retaining the control of an iconic hospital, catering to heart patients, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had tried to hype a counter spin to protect the 18th Amendment on emotional grounds.

No wonder, even a diehard PTI hawk, Murad Saeed, had to adopt a defensive position.

You can’t suspect the claim of Saeed that the federal government had no intention to take control of projects, the Sindh government considered too close to its heart.

But the Supreme Court had its own ideas and the federal or the provincial governments must execute its order.

While leaving the office, Justice (now retired) Saqib Nisar had surely thrown a ticking bomb that might lead to a deadly showdown between the federal and the Sindh governments in the coming weeks.

Seriously wonder what else is there from his legacy that he kept building with self-righteous zeal of a wannabe Messiah.

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