All eyes on Naudero

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 9:30:14 by


Except the hardcore or thick-skinned types, most of the ruling party members preferred not to return to the National Assembly Tuesday morning. Biting cold in Islamabad was not the reason. After separately talking to three PPP legislators, I rather realised that the ruling coalition was feeling as if abandoned by the military elite. A brief statement that the ISPR had issued on Monday was presumed to have sent a loud message. Huddled in various ministerial chambers, most were found anxiously seeking answer to the question: What next?

Cutting across the party divide, some members sitting in the house did make a few attempts to ignite fiery speeches. Syed Nasir Ali Shah, a vocal PPP member from Quetta, took the lead by recalling the bitter remarks that a senior politician from Balochistan, Sardar Attaullah Mengal, had made before live cameras while standing next to Nawaz Sharif. It failed to incite bombastic speeches.

Eventually, Rohail Asghar Sheikh of the PML-N proved his provoking skills by sarcastically wondering through a point of order as to why General Musharraf was given guard of honour on his departure. That compelled Rehman Malik to jump at his mike to reveal in clear words that “all stakeholders (read the military and civil oligarchs and their friends among the so-called international community) unanimously reached the decision that he should be sent off like that. And I can prove this claim of mine.” Things, however, appeared taking a different turn now.

The interior minister recalled that a competent court had already initiated a process that might lead to declaring Musharraf a proclaimed offender. He also vowed that the PPP government would not feel hesitant to chase him, if the court so decided.

After loudly expressing the said resolve, he tried to put the PML-N on the defensive. The General, he recalled, had toppled their government in October 1999. “They now have a government in Punjab. What stops them from initiating criminal cases against Musharraf?”

The laboured attempts at point-scoring regarding the fate of our recent dictator in khaki looked pathetic when viewed in the context of the realities of the here and now. Instead of returning to Pakistan in March next year, Musharraf is now getting ready to land here anytime in the first two weeks of next month. Lahore had been his favourite port of landing for he wanted to show a bigger gathering of people welcoming him than Ms Benazir Bhutto had pulled on April 10, 1986.

By joining Imran Khan’s party in droves, rich and heavyweight politicians he was relying on to collect a mammoth crowd for his welcome, have forced a change in the plan. Karachi is now being projected as the preferred destination.

While the former president and his loyalists are busy in brainstorming over his plans of returning to Pakistan, a group of experienced politicians is slowly but surely building within the PML-N. The pioneers of this group strongly feel that by going to the Supreme Court to seek a deep probe on ‘memogate,’ Nawaz Sharif and his party have started looking like ‘facilitators’ of extra parliamentary forces, historically addicted to manipulate and regulate democratic appearances for the state of Pakistan. This group is desperately seeking ways and means to restore the PML-N’s image as the one and only ‘anti-establishment party’ in this country. Nawaz Sharif called on Mengal at his residence in Karachi to please the same group, but star players of the same group remain clueless when it comes to the question of what next. Prime Minister and his colleagues are equally lost and bewildered when probed to tell the script they should follow from now on. All are anxiously waiting for the speech that Asif Ali Zardari is expected to deliver in Naudero while addressing the crowd of PPP diehards.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2011.

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