Press Gallery: Would the PM’s future be decided by July 3?
By Rana Qaisar
ISLAMABAD: Chaos and uncertainty continue to overshadow the ongoing budget session of the National Assembly as everyone appears to be more interested in what is happening in the corridors of power instead of focusing on the fiscal plan of the government for the next year. The reason is that there is no rebuttal coming from the presidential camp to contradict the increasingly intensifying reports of an “in-house” change.
Though Wednesday was a dull day for political reporters since it was dedicated entirely to budgetary procedure with the opposition moving cut-motions and the treasury rejecting them, they still had much to talk about on the political situation. While everyone is sure about the change, some have started doubting that Humayun Akhtar Khan would replace Zafarullah Khan Jamali as prime minister of the country, but they are clueless about the “dark horse”.
The indications coming from the corridors of power suggest that the change, if it does come about, will take place before President Musharraf leaves for Scandinavian countries on an 18-day official visit on July 3. And if it does not take place, Mr Jamali will continue as prime minister “for the time being”. However, everything depends on the developments that take place by the weekend.
What most journalists and parliamentarians focused on were the “very significant” speeches by Aitzaz Ahsan and Hafiz Hussain Ahmed. Though they supported the prime minister and criticised what was happening behind-the-scenes, Mr Jamali, many think, committed an “unpardonable crime” when he did not stand up and intervene to defend his “boss”.
He could have “snubbed” these fiery speakers with his “known humility” to avoid what they had put on the record of the National Assembly.
Mr Ahsan tried to shake up the “slumbering conscience” of the treasury members and asked them to support Mr Jamali. Hafiz Hussain Ahmed was so blunt in his criticism of Mr Musharraf. He accused him of conspiring against “Dervaish Jabal” while sitting on the fourth floor of the parliament building where the president had started a series of meetings with members of the ruling coalition in his chambers to assess the political situation before making up his mind for a change and launching his next candidate for the slot of prime minister.
The prime minister, in his interviews with various newspapers, has also hinted at “palace intrigues” but he remains “cool”. Denying the rumours of an “in-house” change, he told the parliamentary party meeting of the PML and its allies that there was no threat to the democratic system and the assemblies would complete their tenure.
Ironically, the president has so far not said a single word about Mr Jamali continuing as prime minister and he has also said many a time that the assemblies will complete their tenure.
The government is expected to pass the federal budget on June 26, two days earlier than the scheduled date. It again indicates that if the president is determined to replace Mr Jamali before embarking on the foreign tour, the rescheduled budget session allows ample time to elect a new prime minister and expand the federal cabinet before July 3. The parliamentarians who have met the president are of the view that the he would not prolong the political crisis and would settle it in a few days.
“I expect the in-house change to take place soon after the federal budget is passed,” a well-informed Pakistan Muslim League (PML) parliamentarian said while commenting on the political situation. “If the change does not come before July 3, Zafarullah Jamali will continue as prime minister for a couple of months,” a federal minister observed while referring to behind-the-scenes political activity which continued in the federal capital with secret meetings taking place between the political mangers of President Musharraf and top PML leadership to settle the political crisis that has created unrest among the parliamentarians.
Though various names are being cited for the slot of the prime minister, a member of Mr Jamali’s cabinet said that there was a possibility that a consensus candidate could come forward. “He can be even one of those already being considered,” he said without naming anyone but when asked if it would be Humayun Akhtar Khan, he said: “Let’s see.”