Amir Mateen


ISLAMABAD: PPP’s Shazia Marri spoke on everything that was wrong with the PML (N) government, except for the topic that she was supposed to speak on – the ever-increasing prices of commodities and utilities.

But it was a change to listen to old-style Jiyala rhetoric that has become so out of fashion even in the PPP. Shazia definitely brings some vigour to the generally weary and pliant PPP cadres in the National Assembly – perhaps because of the plethora of corruption cases piled up against them.

She seemed to have gained extra gusto after pulling out Sanghar’s seat from the jaws of Pir Pigaro in the recent by-elections.

But then Shazia may also have been irritated by PML’s compulsive provocateur, Abid Sher Ali. One can’t find a politer member than PPP’s Yousaf Talpur, who simply asked why Islamabad was not naming Sindh’s nominee in IRSA to sort out provincial water issues. Trust Abid Sher Ali – he is incapable of giving a straight answer. Some blame it on Faisalabad’s brackish water that shoots up adrenaline; others say it’s just his aggressive temperament. Whatever the case, Daddy Sher Ali needs to work on his cub. Abid went overboard in censuring the PPP for similar delays and nominating Punjabis to represent Sindh. This was unwarranted.

The PPP will love to re-activate its long-dead Sindh card, considering that the local bodies’ polls are, if the world survives after 11/12/13, just around the corner. But why should the PML (N) raise the ante on such sensitive matters, particularly after a fragmented election that saw the PML (N) winning only in Fortress Punjab. PPP members were quick to raise objections.

But Shazia Marri waited for her turn to speak on inflation. She retaliated by aiming for the PML (N)’s jugular, attacking Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his comments against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s nationalisation policy on Saturday. She accused him of rewarding his industrial class through privatisation “as he did earlier by obliging his favourites with prized banks.” She defended the nationalisation of the 1970s as it was essential to break cartels of the so-called richest ’22 families.’ That Nawaz Sharif’s family happened to be one of them added to the irony. She almost implied as if Nawaz Sharif was pursuing privatisation to avenge that chapter of the family history.

This seemed a little far-fetched but the government’s privatisation plan has generated controversy even before it has taken off. For a start, the government is yet to gear up its package for reforms in the state-owned enterprises ten months after the national elections. This may have triggered several questions. We have no idea how the government wants to go about its privatisation agenda; who will be the ‘angels’ who will turn around the State enterprises; how are they being selected and how will they operate; who will get what and how?

All we know is that the process got stalled after the Supreme Court debarred Chaudhary Rauf, the big honcho of the privatisation scrutiny process. Shazia Marri was not the only one who questioned the philosophy behind privatisation. The government has not cared to initiate any debate on the subject. The mere argument that we need to get rid of roughly Rs500 billion annual losses incurred by the State enterprises may not be enough. “What about the welfare of labour,” asked Shazia Marri. Many argue privatisation is bound to benefit cartels and monopolists in the absence of credible regulation. We have a history of such exercises turning awry and questions loom from earlier privatisation even after 15 years. The government is yet to give many answers on the IPP payments, which were made without any pre-auditing. It will be difficult for the government to satisfy public concerns if it carried on with its hushed privatisation agenda.

Shazia Marri also pulled a punch or two at the First Daughter for running PML (N)’s show on youth. Obviously, the PPP did not have credentials to criticise the Sharif for turning the PML (N) into a family fiefdom. So she gave a comparison of sorts between the dynasties of Bhuttos and Sharifs. “We must give credit to Bilawal Bhutto for showing courage to become the PPP co-chairperson,” said roared. “This entails risking your life as proved by the martyrdom of our earlier leaders.”

She had a point there but the latest PPP rage to suck up to Bilawal gets sickening. It’s too early for the people to get over the PPP failures. And it’s too early for Master Bilawal to own up the mess that he was not part of.

Rahul Gandhi took decades to present himself for the leadership role and it remains unclear whether he will be the Congress choice for the premiership in the upcoming Indian elections. Benazir Bhutto had to do it early, as there was nobody else to hold on to the PPP mantle.

Here we have Papa Zardari who, after enjoying power for five years and tainting the party name to new heights, is suddenly out of the scene.

Where is all that Zardari bravado about turning around the political landscape once he was released by the Presidency, one may ask? And Master Bilawal has been left to clean the muck for which the kiddo is not responsible. Perhaps he should be spared time to learn the ropes of politics from, god forbid, Aunt Faryal and Uncle Tappi.

Shazia Marri had some genuine concerns about the new PML (N) youth employment scheme turning into another Yellow Cab scheme. The fact is that both the PPP and the PML (N) have come up with numerous such schemes, which were more political than economic. It all depends on how it is executed. We have our reservations but let’s give it a benefit of doubt.

Interestingly, the PTI that got votes against the PPP and PML (N) and should educate us on such issues is nowhere to be seen. It’s stuck in the blind alley of drones and nobody in the PTI has the guts to say this to King Khan.

Tailpiece: Chaudhry Nisar’s claim that Tariq Malik was thrown out because of reasons that had nothing to do with politics was, in the words of Shafqat Mahmood, non-sense.  He believed it was typical of Nisar to offer a one-step-forward-and-two-backwards. We tend to believe Shafqat. You do not serve such notices in the middle of the night, Chaudhry Sahib.

The News

December 10, 2013