‘A huge embarrassment on the first day’

Parliamentary rules and traditions firmly demand that no other business should be discussed in the National Assembly, once budgetary proposals for a fiscal year had already been put before it for ‘general discussion’. But as the Leader of the House, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif disregarded the said tradition and passionately suggested to the Speaker that the first hour of Monday’s sitting must be devoted to condemn remarks, one highly visible spokesperson of India’s ruling party had amplified through widely read and watched tweets and video messages.

Even a sinful Muslim like myself can’t dare to repeat what the woman spokesperson of the Indian ruling party had exactly said, although with simply professional intent of elaborating the context. Suffice is to report that the dogmatist spokesperson had deliberately insulted our Prophet (PBUH).

An Indian social media activist took the lead to question her hate-driven venom. Rana Ayub is her name. Her sincere and dedicated activism had already established Ms. Ayub as an iconic symbol of consistent resistance to bigotry, the government led by a Hindu supremacist had viciously been sponsoring and promoting against Muslims and the rest of non-Hindu citizens of India since 2014. Also important is to remember that she had posted her detestable messages in the last week of May 2022.

Yet the reality remains that much before Pakistan, some Gulf countries, especially Qatar, took serious note of these remarks. To furnish substantial content for conveying the hurt feeling, famous malls in those countries began to remove “made in India” goods from their shelves and such protest was also made viral on social media.

 

By ‘sacking’ the said spokesperson, the Modi government attempted hypocritical damage control. Its foreign ministry also launched assuaging initiatives. But they have failed to deliver, so far.

Within India itself, cutting across the political, gender and age divide, Muslims keep leaving homes in droves in almost each major city and town to join crowds expressing hurt sentiments. Instead of feeling genuinely sorry, the Indian law enforcers viciously order the police to brutally deal with peaceful crowds, merely equipped with passion. That, in return, triggers a series of widespread and relentless reactions.

 

But members of the National Assembly of the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” took more than an hour Monday afternoon before delivering bombastic speeches to flaunt their love for our Prophet (PBUH). Full of sound and fury, these speeches failed to focus on evolving some hope-inducing strategy.

The spontaneous reaction of markets in the Gulf countries clearly conveyed that money matters, even for a bigot gone insane. India is a huge market, no doubt. But Muslims all across the world comprise a far bigger market. By wisely approaching the rest of Muslim countries, Pakistan can certainly push for developing and spreading the strategic message of motivating Muslim consumers of the world to boycott ‘made in India’ goods, until Hindu-supremacists really discover their limits. Bombastic speeches were of no use here. Soon, the House also realised the futility of such speeches and preferred returning to discuss budgetary proposals.

 

At the outset, it looked like a farce that miserably fails to make you laugh. As per the parliamentary traditions, the Leader of the Opposition initiates the ‘general discussion’ on budgetary proposals. But 123 members of the largest party in this house, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are not present in the House. After the election of Shehbaz Sharif as the Prime Minister replacing Imran Khan in early April, these members had posted “collective resignations” to the Speaker.

In their absence, Speaker Parvaiz Ashraf felt forced to ‘recognise’ Raja Riaz as the Opposition Leader. This member from Faisalabad represents around 22 members, who had distanced themselves from the PTI. Most of them intend to contest the next election on the ticket of Pakistan Muslim League, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif these days. You can thus easily imagine the “tough time”, Raja Riaz might have given to the government through his unnecessarily lengthy speech, faking ‘critical evaluation’ of budgetary proposals.

 

The farce turned more unbearable when Noor-ul-Hassan Tanvir, a member of the ruling PML-N, vehemently demanded from the Speaker that instead of Raja Riaz, he should be given the floor for delivering the opening speech on budgetary proposals. When ignored by the Speaker, he tried to act like a spoilsport and started to deliriously demand that the count be made to check whether the house had the quorum. Numbers to establish the same were certainly not present in the House.

 

To prevent a huge embarrassment on the first day of ‘general discussion’ on budgetary proposals, Khawaja Asif, the defence minister, rushed to Tanvir. In sheer panic, he made desperate attempts to calm Noor-ul-Hassan Tanvir down and let Raja Riaz relish his ‘moment of glory.’ Such appearances certainly generated unbearably bad and yawn producing specimens from the theatre of the absurd. And I felt genuinely relieved when the Speaker adjourned the house until Tuesday afternoon, after hardly two-plus hours of proceedings Monday.

 

 

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