‘In this context of total chaos’
While the National Assembly is still in session, the government has also asked the Senate to start meeting from Monday. And I preferred to watch proceedings of the Upper House of parliament only.
The lower house has lost its vigour, also relevance, if you ask me. Its proceedings induce yawns and reflect the frozen misery depicted in the theatre of the absurd. The eleven-party government has consistently been failing to generate any engaging activity there.
The main reason remains the absence of 123 members from a house of 342. They had been elected to the national assembly during the election of July 2018, on tickets issued by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by the charismatic cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan.
After his removal from the Prime Minister’s Office in the late night of April 9, 2022, they don’t want to sit in the House removing him through a vote of no confidence. The collective resignations they had posted have yet not been approved, formally. Yet they remain adamant not to return. With obsessive zeal, they are rather helping their leader to ignite, sustain and expand pressure for holding of earliest possible elections.
With the idea of not abandoning both the Houses of Parliament to the whims of the unity or the coalition government, replacing Imran Khan, the PTI had made the strategic decision of keeping its senators in the Upper House. And the decision clearly appeared “delivering” Monday afternoon.
For more than 70 minutes, the PTI senators did not let the Senate to smoothly proceed with the day’s agenda. They entered the House with placards rejecting and condemning the “imported government.” They took seats, only to extract time for their leader, Dr Wasim Shahzad. He delivered a lengthy and bombastic speech to promote his party’s story.
Smartly using all possible means of communication, former Prime Minister Imran Khan had indeed succeeded in convincing his supporters and well wishers that his local opponents had no capacity to remove his government on their own. Essentially, Washington felt extremely offended with his nationalist positions. When threats allegedly conveyed through diplomatic channels failed to bend him, the Americans felt forced to remove him through a ‘conspiracy.’ Submitting a vote of no confidence against him in the National Assembly of Pakistan was the main tool of the alleged conspiracy. Besides his political opponents, some well-placed persons from within our superior judiciary and national security outfits also joined the game of removing him as “slavish collaborators.”
Since his fall, Imran Khan firmly refuses to recognise the government led by Shehbaz Sharif as an organically developed and legitimately elected entity. He rather niggardly calls it “imported” to promote the message of the American conspiracy against him.
Dr Wasim Shahzad primarily kept drumming the same story. But he also felt glad to announce that “millions” of Pakistanis would reach Islamabad on May 25. The assembled crowd of “patriotic Pakistanis” was set to force the “imported government” to crumble and Pakistan would then start enjoying the real liberty and freedom as a sovereign nation.
The PTI wanted that the rest of its senators should be allowed to deliver more speeches to repeat the theme set by Dr Wasim Shahzad. The government, on the other hand, was too keen to table a resolution expressing solidarity with a renowned freedom fighter from the Indian Occupied Kashmir, Yasin Malik.
On May 25, the Indian government intends to formally charge him for invented crimes of committing the “crimes of terrorism” after receiving money from forces hostile to India (read Pakistan). He could be sentenced to death, if proven guilty before a “Kangaroo Court.”
But the PTI Senators were not willing to trust the “patriotic pretensions” by an “imported government.” They kept thumping desks when the resolution in support of Yasin Malik was being read and after its approval from the “treasury benches only,” they left their seats to huddle around the Chairman’s dais and kept chanting fierce slogans against the “imported government.”
Often, they also shouted at Sadiq Sanjrani, when he pleaded for restraint and decorum. Betraying his reputation of being a friends-to-all, Sanjrani was eventually provoked to tell them point blank: “You can’t dictate me by audacious bullying.”
After realising that the Chairman was also willing to match his words with strict action, the PTI then decided to walk out of the “fake proceedings of a house, hijacked by installed agents of a foreign country.” But through their brief but vigorous presence in the House, they certainly had succeeded to effectively transmit the defying message of their party.
Although the National Assembly was also holding a sitting, the ministerial chambers and parliamentary corridors mostly looked deserted until my leaving the building Monday evening. The government keeps pretending to be cool and indifferent to the “march of millions”, Imran Khan had announced bringing to Islamabad hardly after two days from almost each city and town of Pakistan. But some ministers, especially the ones representing the PML-N of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, looked visibly jittery. During off-the-record conversations, they admit to not being sure how big a crowd Imran Khan could assemble in Islamabad on coming Wednesday.
Imran Khan’s party rules Khyber-e-Pakhtunkhawa province. Instead of blocking crowds’ movement to Islamabad from its cities and towns, the provincial government would rather encourage and facilitate marchers. The federal government can only focus on denying their entry to Islamabad.
But the Shehbaz government’s real dilemma is the absolute confusion and chaos when it comes to the administrative control of things in the most populous province, Punjab. Hamza Shehbaz, the Chief Minister, is yet not able to form a cabinet there and his own election has been questioned in the courts. The PTI-nominated Governor, Umer Sarfraz Cheema, has also not reconciled with his removal. He also had approached the courts to assert his status. President Arif Alvi continues to support his cause by not approving the nomination of a PML-N Governor, replacing Cheema.
In this context of total chaos, the Shehbaz government would ultimately be forced to seek the military’s help, if the mobs moving to Islamabad turn unmanageably violent at multiple points. And the federal government doesn’t look certain to get the required “aid and assistance.” Appearances clearly suggest perfect meltdown of the state authority. Yet the Shehbaz government keeps boasting to complete its term until August of the next year.