press gallery: Will a change of horses work?
By Rana Qaisar
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly, concluding a three-day debate, passed a unanimous resolution on Friday to condemn the desecration of the Quran by US soldiers and the inhuman treatment being meted out to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The resolution called upon the US government to hold an inquiry into these incidents. When the ‘unanimous’ resolution was passed, hardly 30 members were present in the House.
Most of the speakers who participated in the three-day debate were from the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). The government allowed them to drag the debate beyond what was necessary only, but surely keeping in view the sensitivity of the issue, to provide the anti-US venom-spitting political mullas a cathartic opportunity to restrict them to parliament only. Otherwise, there was no logic to continue the debate when the US administration had already condemned the desecration of the Quran and ordered an inquiry soon after Islamabad had registered its protest with Washington on May 7.
Riaz Pirzada, who presided over the National Assembly proceedings towards the end of the debate, deftly handled the political mullas and some of Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) members without offending them despite some objections from the treasury benches. Even on the insistence of Chaudhry Shahbaz, Riaz Pirzada did not expunge the remarks of Sardar Yaqoob Nasir who said it would be far more appropriate if the cartoonists, instead of Pakistan, had written the name of “one person” on the dog, as all this was happening because of the policies of “one person”.
Mir Zafarullah Jamali is making headlines these days. The moment he leaves the House, parliamentary reporters follow him for his comments on the PML ‘crisis’. He is not an articulate person and it is always difficult to extract any ‘meaning’ from what he says. Maybe he has learnt the art of making ambiguous statements only to deny the implied impressions, which he always does and blames reporters for ‘misquoting’ him. And this is exactly what he did on Friday. He denied the ‘reported’ differences with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and said he was the president of the PML, which he said would remain intact – “The PML ship will never sink.”
All eyes were focused on a PML meeting, which was held on Friday at the residence of Hamid Nasir to create an atmosphere of goodwill before the stalwarts meet at the residence of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain today (Saturday). The participants were Mushahid Hussain, Hamid Nasir Chattha, Farooq Leghari and Manzoor Wattoo. They reposed confidence in the leadership of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain who was also present. However, there was no representative of Pir Pagaro. Possibly, Chaudhry Shujaat might have rejected the participation of Pagaro’s representative as Pir sahib had recently made an ‘insulting’ statement about the credentials of the Chaudhrys’ association with the PML.
Though the PML leaders reposed their confidence in Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as party president, some political circles, which often churned out conspiracy theories, believed that time had come for the powers-that-be to sideline the Chaudhrys of Gujrat. These “drawing room politicians”, who claim to be well informed, are convinced that the PML leaders’ reposing confidence in Chaudhry Shujaat was to provide him an ‘honourable’ exit. They insist that Chaudhry Shujaat, like Zafarullah Jamali, would himself resign from the office of PML president for the party’s “reorganisation and reformation”, which he had not been able to do.
Now the question that arises in the minds of many is: will such a plan to sideline Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain work to reform and organise the PML? I doubt it. The reason is very simple. There is no one to handle and run the PML like the Chaudhrys, who, besides their allies, also have a majority of parliamentarians, mostly from the Jat biradari, on their side. And in this situation, no one, whether Farooq Leghari, Hamid Nasir Chattha, Manzoor Wattoo or Ejazul Haq, can manage the party, as the Chaudhry Group would still remain stronger with their government in the Punjab – the real centre in power politics.
If any of them, though with the support of the powers-that-be, were capable enough to run a party like the PML better than the Chaudhrys, they would have long been sidelined. Apparently, there appears to be no urgency for the general-president to change his horses who had carried his ‘baggage’ at a time when none from this motley crowd that has now gathered around him was ready to support the man in uniform and advance his political plans.