When will the masti khel end?
By Muhammad Akram
LAHORE: This comes with all due respect to the call of media bodies boycotting the Punjab Assembly proceedings in the wake of the House’s unanimously-adopted resolution on July 9. The assembly MPs, including all PML-N members, accorded a rousing welcome to Sanaullah Mastikhel, the mover of the resolution and under a notice of expulsion from the party from party chief Nawaz Sharif. The wooden door from where he entered the House and the desks thumped by the MPs for over 10 minutes to accord him one of the most impressive welcomes in the history of the Punjab Assembly, confided that it was not short of a revolt against the PML-N leadership.
The welcome was so resounding and jubilant that Speaker Rana Iqbal had to suspend the proceedings of the House until Mastikhel sat on his seat amidst the deafening sound of the slogan “Qadam barhao Mastikhel, hum tumharey saath hain’, told the clock of the House, hinting at the swing of the pendulum from a highly authoritarian control of the PML-N leadership over the party to the right to freedom of expression over one of the most pertinent issues in national politics these days.
The situation in the courtyard of the Punjab Assembly although was unwelcoming for Mastikhel, as protesting journalist demanded his resignation for moving what is being termed by the media bodies “an insulting resolution against journalists”. Mastikhel walked through the journalists with his right hand constantly saluting them. He was so confident in his own right that he turned his face towards the journalists and kept on saluting them, as the atmosphere was full of the smell of the burning copies of the resolution — the one that he got approved from the House only two days back.
The House, even before the arrival of Mastikhel, was full of dissenting voices to what the PML-N chief said about the resolution, apparently in an attempt to control the damage his brother’s government has inflicted to itself by getting a resolution approved with the help of everyone, including those who are now finding it hard to make eye contact with their friends in the media. The mic installed at the empty seat of the leader of the House informed this scribe that the House dismissed with contempt, yet through a majority vote, a resolution the opposition leader, PML-Q’s Chaudhry Zaheeruddin, intended to move to praise the role of the media.
Before the speaker sought the House’s assent to the request of Chaudhry Zaheer, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah reminded him that the initial draft of the resolution carry the signatures of his party’s MPs they affixed in the speaker’s chamber on July 7 — the day the issue was brought to the House by a PML-Q member, Shaukat Bhatti, with teary eyes.
Chaudhry Zaheer, in his effort to set the record straight, replied to Rana Sanaullah that he had forewarned the PML-N and the PPP leadership, after going through the draft of the resolution, that it is a dangerous game and his party would not support it. Before putting to vote the request of the opposition leader, whether he should be allowed to move the resolution or not, the chair asked the PML-Q leader to look at the paper carefully, as it carries the names of his party’s MPs present at the moment of drafting the resolution in his chamber.
The mole in the House confided that the opposition leader failed to get the support of all members of his party present at the time of voting, suggesting that a revolt-like situation too exists in a party such as the PML-N.
The PPP MPs, who had been silently watching their coalition partner being grilled, and had been witnessing the helplessness of their colleagues on the opposition benches, a back bencher said of the political divide, will continue to stick to the wait-and-see policy. “We are least concerned about the warning the acting PPP Punjab chief Samiullah Khan reportedly issued to us through the media on the issue of the resolution,” said the PPP MP, who enjoys good relationship with the party’s parliamentary leader and senior minister in the provincial cabinet, Raja Riaz.
As far as the parliamentary parties’ activities outside the House are concerned, the PML-Q was the worst to suffer for wooing the protesting journalists.
The party has gathered a good number of supporters outside the Punjab Assembly, but the journalists kept themselves away. The PML-Q MPs, under the leadership of Chaudhry Zaheeruddin, did try to join the protesting journalists at the stairs that lead to assembly building, but had to leave when everyone ignored their presence.
The coalition government too sent a three-member delegation comprising Rana Sanaullah, Raja Riaz and Deputy Speaker Rana Mashhud to appease the journalists and end the deadlock with them, but had to go back to the House empty-handed.
As far as the issue of drafting of the resolution is concerned, it is now an open secret that it was not just vetted by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, but his pen approved each and every word of the resolution. But the mole in the PML-N’s most-strong fort, the team of the party’s media managers, confided to this scribe that the initial draft of the resolution was prepared in the office of the Principle Secretary to the CM Dr Tauqeer Shah.
The initial draft, said the sources, was written and approved by Punjab government’s spokesman Senator Pervaiz Rashid, provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan and Information Secretary Shoaib bin Aziz.
How and who will help end the deadlock between the Punjab Assembly and the protesting media bodies is perhaps the only and the most pertinent question that surfaced, while closely watching a situation that keeps on aggravating since July 9 — when the resolution was adopted by the august House.
The answer to the situation doesn’t lie in throwing Mastikhel out of the PML-N or in the PPP’s intention to issue show-cause notices to its MPs who supported the resolution or the U-turn of the PML-Q on the resolution it so vehemently favoured in the House that failed to produce any results. The answer perhaps is letting the political process take their course in correcting the wrongs that exist now, before and after the adoption of the resolution, in a system so badly polluted by undemocratic forces, which democratic forces and the watchdog of the democratic system are shying away from confronting. Are the champions of democracy listening?
Source: Daily Times