Amir Mateen


ISLAMABAD: The Imran Khan show outside the Parliament against the US drones strikes was much more thought provoking, if not entertaining, than the drab proceedings inside the Parliament.

It seemed largely as a Jamaat-i-Isami show with the PTI posing as a junior partner, considering the ambiance and the greater number of Jamaat flags. The oxymoronic ‘PTI liberals’ seemed visibly uncomfortable over the PTI transformation into an ultra rightist party. As if this came out as a surprise. Some of them claim that they joined the party because Imran had promised that the drive against terrorism would not be drone-specific.

Asad Omar took pains to draw our attention to Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s speech wherein he had allegedly condemned Taliban for terrorism. Well, the occasional condemnation may not be enough as the PTI generally comes across as the Taliban apologist.

The PPP can rest assured that the PTI is becoming a lesser threat against its estranged voters. And the PML (N) is equally happy that the Skipper keeps playing on what remains its beaten rightist track.

We may equally oppose the drone strikes but the PTI – as the PML (N) – seems hedging behind it. The drones may just be a small part of the larger problem of terrorism. It’s a small tail by which Imran Khan is trying to wag the huge elephant of terrorism. Both the parties in Peshawar and Islamabad fail to suggest us a way forward. What do we do when the US refuses to stop drone strikes and Taliban refuse to talk?

Over 800 innocent Pakistanis are already dead in terrorist incidents since the PML (N)-PTI combine came to power. How many more it will take for them to announce the Plan B, one may ask.

Taliban continue to refuse to talk and this is not just because of the death of Hakeemullah Mehsud. The PTI failed to extract an iota of reciprocity from Taliban. Who is stopping the PTI if it could resolve the issue through dialogue? In fact, the PTI’s soft pleading got its three MPAs and scores of workers killed by Taliban. And it cannot quote a single example out of the 17 flash points in Fata and the KP where Taliban were either curbed or wiped off without force.

The politicking over Nato supplies, some may say, is just a fig leaf to cover up the PTI failure to bring about peace in the KP. Even the PML (N) scorns the move as a futile exercise. After all, the PPP government stopped Nato supplies for eight months without any results.

The vigilantism introduced by the PTI may have serious consequences.

“What if other groups also start taking law in their hands by checking travel documents of vehicles,” journalist Mohammad Malick aptly pointed out in the Press Gallery. “This is what Taliban are also doing; is this the rule of law that the PTI is trying to introduce in ‘Naya Pakistan?”

But the PML (N) is equally ambivalent, if not hypocrite, on this issue. It continues with its double-speak with Nisar pandering to anti-US voters and the bad cops, Sartaj Aziz and Ishaq Dar never forgetting to lay the proverbial begging bowl before Nato countries.

However, our vets think that the PML (N) government also treads on a sticky wicket. It is legally bound to take some measures, even if cosmetically, to stop the PTI from hampering its international obligations. But then this might be a valid excuse next time, if push comes to the shove, a Governor’s rule gets imposed or the government in Peshawar gets changed. Remember – the PTI’s numerical position is quite precarious after the parting of ways by Aftab Sherpao.

What was the urgency of this mid-night operation? Shafqat Mahmood believed that the government got panicked at his objectivity in polls re-checking, particularly in Speaker Ayaz Amir’s constituency. The PML (N) government fears that this might start a snowball effect bringing down the whole electoral and political edifice.

Honestly speaking, Chaudhry Nisar is not the only senior minister who refuses to explain the issues relating to his ministry. Ishaq Dar and Khawaja Asif are not far behind. The Senate continued to echo with scathing queries about the payment of Rs500 billion to clear the circular debt. Sughra Imam impressed everybody by digging holes in the government claims about the generation source of this whopping fund.

It was obvious that the government was trying to scuttle the theory that it printed notes. Sughra pointed out a conflict of interest in drawing out huge funds (on 18 per cent mark-up) from a bank to pay the same bank. Other Senators asked about not conducting any pre-audit of the payment despite serious questions about the IPPs’ exaggerating oil consumption figures and using inefficient machinery.

More disturbing was the disclosure that the circular debt has again crossed the Rs100 billion mark because the remedial steps were not taken. None of the senior ministers appeared to explain the damaging questions that seem to create a certain perception about the government. The IPP saga refuses to go away. Perhaps they follow in the footsteps of the Prime Minister who continues to stay away from the Parliament.

Tailpiece: A letter attributing abuses was distributed in the Senate against Senators Raza Rabbani and Zahid Khan. It was to stop them from supporting the trial of General Musharraf for treason. Most Senators thought it was the handiwork of the ‘agencies.’ Perhaps the new COAS should look into reforming the ISI in his inaugural corps commanders meeting today. And send a positive signal to the people of Balochistan too by sorting out the mess over the missing persons.

The News

December 6, 2013