Press Gallery: From MA Jinnah to Amir Hussain
By Rana Qaisar
ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties’ no-confidence motion against Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain failed on Friday as they, as part of their strategy, boycotted the proceedings knowing that they did not have the support of the required 172 members to oust him from his office. But it must have been the saddest day in Chaudhry Amir Hussain’s political career that spanned three decades as he not only lost the confidence of the opposition, the government too did not allow a majority of its members to attend the no-confidence proceedings even to provide moral strength to the man who had always bailed out the managers of this remote-controlled parliament. He faced a no-confidence motion for being “partisan” second time in one year.
The government, rejecting its senior parliamentarians’ opinion that the treasury members must sit in the house, had restricted its members to a committee room and did not allow a majority of them to participate in the no-confidence proceedings, taking the position that it was the opposition’s responsibility to manage the required number in support of its no-confidence motion. But the government’s decision to keep its members from the proceedings has strengthened the opposition’s claim that most treasury members were ready to vote against the speaker. The government could have proved it wrong by opting to participate in the voting as this would not only defeat the no-confidence motion, but also repose confidence in the speaker.
The opposition had moved this no-confidence motion against the speaker for not allowing them to speak on the “President to Hold Another Office Bill”. And this was exactly what Deputy Speaker Sardar Yaqoob repeated on Friday. This enraged the opposition members who shouted, tore copies of the resolution and offered mock funeral prayers for what they called the “demise of parliament and democracy”. Shah Mehmood Qureshi referred to the no-confidence proceedings against former speaker Syed Fakhr Imam when the house had debated the motion for nine hours. But that was when parliament was sovereign and it had not surrendered its authority to the military dictator of the time.
Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan started his speech with a reference to Muhammad Ali Jinnah who was elected president (speaker) of the constituent assembly three days before the creation of Pakistan on August 11, 1947. He also referred to Mr Jinnah’s successors who preserved the respect, sanctity and decorum of the office of speaker and said even Hamid Nasir Chattha was a better custodian of the house. But what perturbed him was the conduct of Chaudhry Amir Hussain who, he said, had not only fallen from grace but had also brought “disrespect” to the office of the speaker.
Aitzaz quoted Mark Anthony, who had said: “Oh, what a fall my countrymen. Then you and me and all of us fall down.”
The lawyer in Aitzaz outwitted, both legally and morally, the treasury members who, he said, had capitulated to supra-constitutional powers. He beseeched them to rise and regain their “lost glory” as members of parliament but they listened to him with their heads down with an overwhelming sense of ignominy when he read out to them Waris Shah’s poetry to prick their slumbering consciences. But Aitzaz is an optimist.
Dr Sher Afgan will, however, remain an exception even if other treasury members one day stand against what the opposition calls a military take-over of parliament and reject a uniform-controlled democracy. He is too old to learn.
While reading out a charge-sheet against the speaker, Aitzaz Ahsan recalled the conviction of former speaker Yousuf Raza Gillani for giving jobs to people in the National Assembly secretariat and surprised the house with the shocking disclosure that Chaudhry Amir Hussain had also committed a similar “crime” and his fate, despite obliging his “bosses”, would not be different from that of his predecessor. He heaved a deep sigh on the fall of the office of the speaker from “Jinnah to Amir Hussain”. The message in his speech was: “Stop taking dictation from the GHQ.”
The treasury backbenchers were also seen nodding their heads in support of what Aitzaz Ahsan had said. They also “enjoyed” the opposition members’ censure of Dr Sher Afgan’s role, clearly visible “cathartic smiles” on their faces.