Amir Mateen


ISLAMABAD: It did not have to be this way. That the opposition had to finally summon the prime minister before the National Assembly to explain the government conduct showed how badly the PML-N has messed up in its first seven months.

Normally, Nawaz Sharif should have come to the Parliament on his own sweet will to show that he takes his job seriously. But he virtually asked for it by not showing up for months. The Senate has not had the honour of seeing him even once. And these were very difficult months that saw hundreds of Pakistanis killed in bomb explosions and the writ of the state challenged from Torkham to Karachi. To paraphrase the indomitable Sheikh Rashid, if the PML-N were in opposition in such explosive circumstances it would have resorted to “judo-karate” and raised “Bancock kay sholay.” “Tomatoes sell for Rs130 a kilogram and onions Rs100 – it’s a travesty,” he roared in the House.

The combined opposition staged a boycott twice and demanded that the prime minister should come clean on the government policy on terrorism or the boycott will continue on Monday. One could not blame the opposition for over-reacting considering the government’s utter disregard of the parliamentary proceedings. The National Assembly discussed the aftermath of Hakimullah’s killing but the front row of the Cabinet remained generally vacant.

The prime minister would have been spared this embarrassment if his team had performed better. Or let’s just say it; this happened largely because of Chaudhry Nisar’s intransigence. He was supposed to brief the parliamentarians on his action plan but chose to leave for Karachi.

The anger against him was brewing in the Senate for ten days now. It took the ‘good cops’ Ishaq Dar and Pervaiz Rasheed some convincing to persuade the Senate opposition to stop its boycott. The Dar-Pervaiz duo looked taller by bending a little for the sake of introducing positive traditions. Baleeghur Rehman was given the additional charge of interior as junior minister. Whether this was to cut Nisar to size or to lessen his work load the opposition interpreted it as its victory. “We take it as the official message that the opposition will not have to deal with him in future,” said Maula Bux Chandio. “The PM took the initiative and so did Senators Dar and Pervaiz but all of them could not make Nisar submit; his ego is bigger than Parliament.”

The ultimate loser in the episode was Nisar. He messed up an ordinary situation that landed his party and the government – and finally the PM – in an embarrassing situation. Perhaps Nisar needs to distinguish a thin line that exists between pride and vanity.

He will need more wisdom in the days to come as Fazlullah’s elevation as TTP chief spells disaster for Pakistan. He is known to be the biggest hardliner and is already suspected of conniving with foreign agencies to create instability in Pakistan. This also means the expansion of the war theatre to settled areas. He might also focus on disturbing the much stabilised Swat.

The opposition seems to have lost patience with the government and wants to be part of the decision-making process. The crucial question will be to see if the government persists with its un-ending negotiation policy, aptly said Saifullah Magsi, or at least have a contingency plan just in case talks fail. In any case, the chances of any talks seem bleak after the latest statement by Taliban. “It is up to us whether we prepare an action plan or wait for them to launch another wave of terrorism.”

We all wait for the government strategy with baited breath. Our pundits think that the situation warrants that the prime minister should take the lead on the security situation. Chaudhry Nisar has become too controversial to gather the political forces that the government will need to form political consensus.

While the public is focused on the explosive law and order situation, the mandarins dealing with inflation and energy shortages are happy over the respite. The PML (N) government, it seems, is losing its grip on many ministries where a few scandals are brewing already. Power corridors are abuzz with whispers about mega scams.

The biggest rumours are about the IT Ministry where the old mafia that lives on grey traffic seems to have taken over. A recent report compiled by one of the world’s biggest telecom solution companies claims that Pakistan loses $1.16 billion annually. The illegal mobile phone communication known as grey traffic comprises as much as 64 percent of our total traffic. Private companies have approached the government to set up their own infrastructure at minor costs to control the illegal trade. But the powerful mafia in the IT Ministry is too strong for them.

The survey report says that this denies the government at least $96 million monthly. Somebody, somewhere is making huge money, say our sources. This scenario makes the case of fair award of the upcoming 3/4G licence controversial. Perhaps the government should take notice before the scam hits the fan.

The News

November 9, 2013