For another day the national assembly had to be adjourned for the lack of quorum, without dealing with even one item put on the day’s agenda. 

Since the start of its ongoing session, exactly a week ago, the opposition had viciously been thwartingsmooth sailings and the government failed to evolve an effective strategy to counter it.

Originally, the opposition parties had demanded an assembly session to discuss issues of their utmost concern. Instead of obliging them, the government decided to summon the ongoing session on its own. Doing this, it also asked the assembly to start meeting from the afternoon of last Friday. And this happened to be the date, October 16, 2020, when the recently formed alliance of the opposition parties, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), had announced a public rally in Gujranwala.

believed that the government had opted to start the national assembly session on that precise day to ‘overshadow’ their rally. By attending its first sitting, Prime Minister Imran Khan affirmed their suspicions. 

He also appeared as if wanting to address the same sitting. But with ceaseless howling and rude chants against the person of Imran Khan, the opposition legislators prevented his speech. He rather left the house in visible anger.

The opposition legislators returned to relentless heckling after the weekend break. This forced the ruling party’s handlers of the parliamentary business to ensure that the numbers required for maintaining quorum kept staying in the house. Qasim Suri, the deputy speaker, is a zealot loyalist of the ruling party. He presided the Tuesday sitting and by acting deaf and blind to opposition-stirred bedlam, he stubbornly rushed through the day’s agenda. Then the house was adjourned for a two-day break. 

This long break made the parliamentary reporters to presume that on Friday morning, the treasury members might return to the house in full strength and they would exhaust the opposition by stonewalling the vicious heckling. The government visibly lacked the will and the steam, however. 

At the outset of Friday sitting, Syed Navid Qamar, took the floor on a point of order. This very experienced parliamentarian from the PPP politely explained the accumulated grievances of the opposition before announcing the walk out. The required number was not present on the treasury benches and the house had to be adjourned, when a deliberately ‘left-in’ opposition member pointed out the lack of quorum. I don’t expect the opposition to let the rest of session proceed in business-as-usual a manner. 

Firmly sticking to its either/or obsession, the government had forced the opposition for acting hard to get. Behaving like good and accommodating cop, Asad Qaisar, the Speaker, had mostly been appeasing the opposition so far. But then he succumbed to the stern and hawkish mindset, prevailing in the ruling party. In the haste of adjusting to this mode, he even stopped pretending like a neutral arbiter. The opposition representatives are no more willing to even visit his chambers and attend meetings for setting the playbook for a national assembly session. 

From among the senior ministers of the Imran government, Shah Mehmud Qureshi and Pervez Khattak used to employ the appeasing tactics for engaging the opposition. But Khattak seemed to have lost his clout in the ruling party, while Shah Mahmud Qureshi had completely alienated the opposition after delivering a bombastic speech in the national assembly early last month. 

While the opposition parties were still busy in discreetly negotiating the terms for extending cooperation for the speedy passage of a huge package of laws, the government had drafted with the intent of getting Pakistan out of the grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), he suddenly walked into the national assembly. He took the floor to rudely claim that in return to their cooperation, the opposition representatives were demanding “relief” for their “corrupt leaders.”

Revealing the visibly selective content of discreet and private conversations, Shah Mahmud Qureshi contemptuously blamed the opposition for not being mindful of “the supreme national interest.” Then he kept thundering to remind the opposition that fighting corruption was the key agenda of Imran Khan’s politics and he was simply not willing to forget and forgive the “loot and plunder,” top opposition leaders had allegedly been indulging in since 2008.

Without building bridges to the opposition on its own, the Imran government had mostly been relying on certain institutions of the state for managing the smooth passage of laws, it considered were urgently required in “supreme national interest.” But eventually the opposition felt tired of yielding to their approach as well, when the loud spokespersons of the Imran government continued projecting its leaders as “incurably corrupt and hardened money launderers.” An overwhelming majority of opposition legislators now seethe with unmanageable anger and look desperate to push back. 

Contrary to self-sabotaging behavior of the national assembly speaker, Sadiq Sanjrani, the Chairman Senate, is proving to be a cool operator. With friends-to-all sort of behavior he keeps both the government and the opposition happy and smartly goad them to deal with Senate-related agenda in relatively business-as-usual a manner. But things, of late, have also begun to boil there. 

During Friday sitting of the Senate, Raza Rabbani of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) pushed the government to an embarrassing quarter by firmly wondering about how the CEPEC Authority continued to “function.” This forum had been conceived as the proverbial one-window to ensure speedy progress on projects to be completed with huge investments from China. Asim Salim Bajwa, a retired Lieutenant General, had been appointed its Chairman. Through an Ordinance, issued by the President, the same authority was furnished with the ‘legal cover’ as well.

But the same ordinance had yet not been converted into a law, duly approved by both the houses of parliament. If you strictly go by the book, the Ordinance enabling the functioning of CPEC-related Authority had rather been LAPSED. Asad Umer, the minister of planning, was not present in the house to address forcefully argued points of Raza Rabbani, who also is a seasoned lawyer and had served as the Senate Chairman as well for many years. 

Since the advent of the ongoing session, Raza Rabbani had also been consistently agitating about another ordinance, which apparently enables the federal government to take over some Islands, technically considered the Sindh Government’s territory. The government has yet to formally put the said ordinance for consideration by any house of parliament; it fears that employing its massive majority in the Senate all the opposition parties were adamantly determined to “reject” it. 

Mere “rejection” of the said ordinance is not so serious an issue in itself. Far more frightening is the reality that it has triggered a huge controversy, forcing most people of not only Sindh but also in Balochistan to develop the feeling that Federal Government and some of its powerful institutions were planning a massive “land grab” by snatching away islands abutting the coastal line of these provinces. The government definitely needs a well-crafted story to scuttle the said feeling.