press gallery: Shujaat wins Musharraf’s trust
By Rana Qaisar
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly session was to start at 5:00pm but it got underway thirty minutes behind the scheduled time. It took the component parties of the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) hardly ten minutes to point out the quorum and force the deputy speaker to suspend the house till the quorum was complete. The house again met after forty minutes and the deputy speaker declared the “house is in order”. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz also briefly graced the house with his presence.
Before the ARD pointed out the quorum and staged a token walk-out to protest the “high-handedness” of the Punjab administration, which had blocked the HRCP-led “mixed marathon” in Lahore, Naheed Khan, on a point of order, exposed the double standards of the promoters of enlightened moderation and a societal change in Pakistan.
Whether a “mixed marathon” is all about enlightened moderation is a question that boggles the minds of many, the general-president himself does not seem to be clear about the kind of renaissance he wants to bring in. We saw the MMA people beaten up in Gujranwala for opposing the mixed marathon and now the HRCP activists beaten up for holding a mixed marathon. MMA’s Liaquat Baloch rightly questions as to what the general-president believes in.
There was no juicy stuff for the parliamentary reporters and there could not be anything more “important” for them than the general-president’s meeting with the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) leadership. The strife in the PML was the political issue that made headlines in newspapers for two weeks. The rumour mills were also at work, churning out conspiracy theories – local government elections were being postponed, Chaudhrys of Gujrat would be dispensed with, a change in the government was just round the corner etc.
Humayun Akhtar Khan was the man who absolutely miscalculated the situation and chipped in, presenting himself as a substitute of the Chaudhrys, when a “gang of four” tried to politically jolt them. Humayun might have thought that this time the general-president, who went to his home in Lahore, could this time pick him to replace the “glorified finance minister”, who had not been able to woo foreign investors as was expected of him, and reward him for meeting the export targets.
But he seemed to have not politically analyzed the situation and once again wrongly played his cards. It will not help the general-president to bring change at this juncture. Reason: Farooq Leghari, Manzoor Wattoo, Hamid Nasir Chattha or Ijazul Haq, who, if all put together, cannot win more than ten National Assembly seats. And the fact remains that in the Punjab, in the absence of Nawaz Sharif, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat are the only option for the general-president to provide him the political support, though with the “blessings” of the powers-that-be.
The general-president reportedly expressed his annoyance over the PML infighting and asked the leaders to settle their issues at the party’s forum instead of carrying their concerns in media. But he made it loud and clear to all that Chaudhry Shujaat would remain PML president and he also rejected the proposal of some participants of the meeting that the local government elections be postponed, as the party was not organized at its lower tiers to win the elections.
PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar criticized the general-president calling a meeting of the PML to resolve its internal issues. Chaudhry Nisar’s concern was that a general could not indulge in politics and guide a political party. But the PML-N stalwart forgot that the National Assembly session that he attended was also called by a president who held the office of an army chief. If he thinks that the general-president cannot call a meeting of a political party, he should also consider attending the National Assembly session that he calls.