Islamabad-N League finally exploded into long-awaited action on Tuesday.
It was a no-holds-barred sloganeering that started minutes after PTI won the Speakership with 175 votes, which was almost an expected number. The anomaly of eight rejected votes got lost into the mayhem caused by N Leaguers. Newly elected Speaker Asad Qaiser got the first taste of the tumultuous ship that he has to charter for the next five years-if all things go well, that is.
Khyber Pashtunkha must have seemed as a docile lamb in comparison to this growling beast that was determined not to let him take oath in peace. Nobody noticed that a panicked Asad was hurriedly reading oath like a teller machine. IK has definitely erred on his choice as Asad couldn’t even make his maiden speech extempore-let alone handle the disorderly House.
N Leaguers were on fire, shouting themselves hoarse while chanting their mantra,”vote ko izzat do.” Press Gallery old-timers argued why they did not do it on the first day of oath-taking. Was it because they did not want to dismantle the new apple cart before it was born? After all, nobody wants to miss the opportunity of becoming MNA after going through electioneering hell. But then who stopped them from displaying a dash of fireworks after the oath-taking. Perhaps they got moving after they got a heavy drubbing in the media for forgetting Nawaz Sharif in their celebration. Or may be Nawaz-cum-Maryam loyalists revolted against Shahbaz Sharif’s dodgy conciliatory ways. Enough is enough, he is believed to have been told by a very aggressive Parliamentary party a day earlier.
A contingent of N Leaguers chose to first see Nawaz Sharif at the Accountability Court. Let the elections for Speakership wait-something they should have done earlier. The administration seemed to have mellowed by bringing him to the courts in bullet-proof air conditioned SUV. Why, one may ask. Why not give this facility to every jail mate. If Asif Zardari and Benazir Bhutto could be commuted in armoured cars, why not a disqualified PM.
We are told only Shahbaz Sharif was allowed to meet Nawaz Sharif. And he conveyed to the rest that the Supremo wants everybody to go back to the National Assembly to, Mandela-like, strengthen democracy. Words of a statesman or compulsions of limited choices, it was hard to say.
Whatever, return they did. But this time around they came in fully prepared carrying Nawaz Sharif posters. They waited for N Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to hand over the charge before opening gunfire. It was more artillery than guns. It was led by ‘family tonga’ brigade of Maryam Aurangzeb, Shaista Malik, Faiza Hameed, Zeb Jafar, Shiza Fatima-all of them hand-picked by Nawaz and Maryam from the core families. This was the job requirement and they did well. They were in control while back benchers gave them a supporting hand. They took over the area before the Speaker and continued shouting for over 20 minutes.
Many gave vent to their pent up anger for sending Nawaz Sharif to jail; others avenged for the riotous PTI dharnas that kept them on toes for the last five years. It was time to pay back.
They didn’t do a bad job. It almost came to fisticuffs. PTI stalwarts were quick to encircle Imran lest somebody attack him physically. Who could imagine that the mighty Khan would be sitting helpless, beleaguered by charged women. To give him credit he maintained a sartorial calm, occasionally smiling at the spectacle.
Not all of PMLN members were belligerent. Shahbaz Sharif, for one, was forced to lead them. He was not waving his characteristic fingers, nor chanting slogans. Perhaps he was also supported by a sizeazble rear guard that got here after hard-contested elections, unlike the family tonga women brought in through quotas reserved for women. Perhaps they did not want to let spoils go wasted just like that.
Obviously, the PMLN already stands divided between hawks and doves or, let’s say, between the loyalists of Nawaz Sharif/Mariam and Shahbaz Sharif. A coup has already taken place against Shahbaz from within the party. Maryam is hell bent to control the party even from jail. Problem was that Shahbaz also faced a crisis from outside. It was embarrassing that the PPP chose to reject him at the last minute. They wouldn’t vote for somebody who had professed to gut out corruption money from Zardaris’s stomach. His career as Leader of the Opposition seemed over even before it got started.
Or that was the pretext as Shahbaz had been very harsh on Asif Zardari in the past. The real reason: why should they side with a party that was all set for a political suicide. The PPP has stakes in the shape of Sindh government. Plus, the Rs 36 billion case was getting serious by the day. Zardari would rather strike a deal than stand by the PMLN which was losing PM elections any way. This was clearer when PTI’s Qasim Suri got 183 votes, which was more than the strength of all its allies and independents. Either someone from the Opposition betrayed or they hated the MMA more.
Not all was well in the PPP camp also. It was interesting that Zardari and Bilawal sat in different rooms throughout the day, except for lunch perhaps. Poor Bilawal remains just a tool to get rid of his corruption cases and the face to win back the PPP glory. Dad Zardari would not let him make his maiden speech today and chose Khursheed Shah to do the honours.
It’s not an easy ride for Imran for sure. He has to decide how he would cruise his Naya Pakistan ship in such tumultuous waters. The news from Islamabad High Court may not be so heartening either. The way proceedings are going it’s quite possible that Nawaz Sharif and Mayam might be bailed out, even though there are few precedents for that in such cases. The NAB prosecution is obviously either incompetent or complicit. Or may be the Establishment is backing out. Whatever the case, something is definitely cooking somewhere.