Seeking ‘guidance’ from Nawaz Sharif

Atruckload of persons was inducted as ministers by the eleven-party government, replacing the government of Imran Khan in early April. But not more than three of them were present in the House when the National Assembly resumed its sitting Friday morning. Presiding over the same, Zahid Akram Durrani also felt forced to defer a large number of questions because the concerned ministers were not around to deal with them. In the end, the House had to be adjourned for the lack of quorum.

Even if Ms Saira Bano of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) had not pointed out the lack of it, the sitting went on without the presence of at least 86 members, required for establishing the quorum. The farce we witnessed Friday was not an exception, though.

Since the surfacing of the new government, the National Assembly has mostly been projecting a deserted look. At one point in time, only eight members were seen in the house during the sitting of Thursday.

Yet, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his closest and high profile ally, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, don’t seem blushing even for a minute while boasting of seriously trying to furnish dignity to this forum, otherwise considered “supreme to all” pillars and institutions of the state.

To facilitate the removal of Imran Khan from the Prime Minister’s Office, 20-plus members of the previous ruling party, Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insaf (PTI), had ditched their leader. They also decided to check the new government by vigilantly sitting on the opposition benches. Noor Alam Khan and Raja Riaz were the most prominent among them. But both of them now want to be recognised as the Leader of the Opposition. And Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf seems deliberate in delaying the decision.

From the bottom of his heart, the Speaker obviously is waiting for another set of around 25 MNAs from the PTI. Through discreet messages, they continue to tell him that their resignations should yet not formally be accepted. Like the usual fence sitters they anticipate that the populist wave, Imran Khan had unleashed after being removed, would “dissipate” in another “three to four weeks.” That can help their return to the House on “pragmatic” grounds. But if you go by appearances, things don’t seem moving towards that point.

While Imran Khan has clearly bounced back in the game, with almost a bang, the unity or the coalition government replacing him quickly began to look rudderless. It clearly appears unable to take “tough” decisions to control frightening depletion of our Foreign Exchange Reserves. The ultimate lender of the world, the IMF, is just not willing to provide life-support funds, unless Pakistan agrees to massively increase the prices of petroleum products, in one go. Friends like Saudi Arabia and the Peoples’ Republic of China are also reluctant to provide financial cushions to us on their own. They want the IMF to take the lead in the given context.

In spite of dealing with a hard-to-get IMF, Shehbaz Sharif-led government is constantly being projected as “the imported government,” by Imran Khan. With an amazing mastery over the skills of “message control,” he has succeeded to spin and sell the story that Washington felt offended with his hyper nationalism. Manipulating its deep and historic influence in Pakistan, it eventually found and activated “collaborators” from within the elitist quarters of Pakistan for setting and executing the game of toppling his government. With populist zeal, he now wants to come back in power by enforcing earliest possible elections through launching a vigorous mass mobilisation campaign that should culminate in a long march to Islamabad by the end of this month.

The eleven-party government replacing him indeed looks baffled by the assault. Its leaders are yet not able to develop a doable strategy to check his rise and rise as the one and only “honest and patriotic leader”, Pakistan is ostensibly blessed with these days.

Shehbaz Sharif and most of his allies once enjoyed the reputation of being the veterans of power games. The party Shehbaz Sharif leads was also perceived as “business friendly” and gifted with the knack of cultivating formidable supporters among the powerful quarters of our deep state. But after his reaching the Prime Minister’s Office, our Stock Exchange has constantly been bleeding. The value of Pak rupee vis-à-vis the US dollar also seems relentless.

To establish some grip over the drift, Shehbaz Sharif had rushed to London, along with ten of his ministerial colleagues, to seek “guidance” from Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister and his elder brother, staying put in that city since 2019. One is yet not sure whether he eventually succeeded to find a workable solution through intense brainstorming sessions, stretched for two days.

While the ‘cat’ is away, hardly a person sitting on the treasury benches feels really motivated to attend the National Assembly sittings. Being a diehard loyalist of Pakistan Peoples’ Party, Dr Fehmida Mirza had constantly been returning to the national assembly in successive elections that were held since 1993. After the election of 2008, she also made history by getting elected as the first woman Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan. Then she ditched the PPP and crossed over to the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), a cabal of PPP-hating influentials from Sindh. This outfit doesn’t have more than five seats in the current assembly.

Yet, taking advantage of her experience, Dr Mirza is fast establishing herself as the one and only in this House capable of embarrassing the government with taunting and teasing questions and by delivering bombastic speeches to wail over the scarcity of water, especially in her home province.

But Friday she failed to remember that Musadik Masood Malik, the minister of state for Energy (Petroleum Division), is an extremely tough cookie. Being a hands-on type, he is ever ready to take questions asked about the division he heads like a cool cat.

Ms Mirza attempted hard to push him to a tight corner during the Question Hour by repeatedly wondering as to why Pakistan was not buying oil from Russia, while India kept getting huge and nonstop supplies of it, at remarkably “lower rates.”

Imran Khan and his supporters are feverishly promoting the story that during his visit to Moscow, which had happened too close to his fall, Pakistan was also promised an “oil deal.”

Employing the art of deadpan like an accomplished actor, Musadik Malik completely demolished the said story. He firmly but politely stressed that checking the record of the Petroleum Division after taking charge he failed to find any agreement of the presumed but repeatedly drummed ‘deal,’ ensuring the supply of cheaper oil to Pakistan from Russia. His firm denial will certainly go unnoticed by popular media, though.

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