Hounding a harmless person is looked down upon in all countries, religions, cultures and professions. It is doubly culpable in the tradition-driven half lettered, tribal and feudal societies. Religion, culture and politics in such societies are embedded in age-old customs and traditions in which filial relations, friendships and cultural affinities wield more influence than political associations. Politics were earlier divided by ideologically rightists and leftists and their convictions obscured other considerations. Our society is half educated, half tribal and fully feudal. Here everyone in a position of power has a feudal mindset thinking of himself all upright, all knowledgeable, all wise, desiring to be listened, given importance and followed. We shall come across this mindset everyday interacting with a minor Station House Officer to Inspector General of Police, from an Assistant to a Provincial or Federal Secretary, from a Member of Provincial or National Assembly and Senator to a Minister.
It should be a little surprise if unusual things happen in such a society. We have a history of the unusual and bizarre dramas that had frequently been enacted in our society particularly in our brand of politics. Nevertheless, since the PTI has come into power, there has been an increase in the frequency of unusual happenings across the political divide. People are afraid talking of good and bad, darkness and light, truth and falsehood, fact and fiction, friendship and hostility, silence and noise, expression and suppression. We found all this intermixed in a toxic porridge displayed, in an odious way, on our print and electronic and social media and in the partisan articles of our intellectuals. Everything is done in the name of politics, in the promotion of democracy and rule of law, and in the honest service of this hapless nation.
This drama has continued since decades – rather since the birth of this country. There has not been the slightest change in stage, themes, characters, scenes or dialogue. There is repetitively the same theatric pattern – may it be the adoption of the One Unit resolution in which members were coerced or incentivized to vote in favour – at least, in Sindh it was passed by a half empty House with Speaker Ghulam Ali Talpur sulking in a dingy Rest House close to Thar after a long camel ride – or the formation overnight of the Republican Party after the promulgation of this infamous scheme in 1955 and the herding of the worthy Members like sheep into it to install Dr. Khan Sahib as the first Chief Minister of West Pakistan to assuage the pain of the Red Shirts beaten pulp by the Muslim League’s strong man, Khan Abdul Qayum Khan.
We witnessed a more queer drama in the adoption of the 1973 Constitution against which at least 4 members of the Pakistan People’s Party under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto broke their bondage with the party and voted against it. Bhutto had secured the support of the Jamaat Islami and other Islamists by compromising on many secular clauses of the Constitution but could not leash his own party members. We are reminded of the audacious hijacking of the Punjab Provincial Members to Changa Manga in 1988 by the Senior Sharif in his titanic struggle to promote democracy and thwart Benazir Bhutto to cast her unpropitious shadow on his province or preserve the stainless turban of his people shouting at the top of his voice ‘jag Punjabi jag teri pag non lage na dagh’, or attempting to upstage the first government of that anti Pakistan and anti-state woman in a no-confidence motion with the help of the funds of the Mujahid-e-Islam Osama Bin Ladin – that was defeated by a few votes from the ranks of the IJI and by generously entertaining the MNs in Saidu Sharif by Chief Minister Aftab Sherpao.
We have not forgotten that Jam Sadiq Ali with his sole seat in the Sindh Assembly was allowed by the honest and upright Ghulam Ishaq Khan to form the government in Sindh following the PPP’s defeat in the elections held at the end of 1990. He ruled the province even from his hospital bed until he breathed his last passing the crown to Liaqat Ali Jatoi, a stalwart of the Senior Sharif at the time. When the federal throne of Senior Sharif was overturned by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1992, his own party members in the Punjab Provincial Assembly revolted and crowned Speaker Manzoor Wattoo as the Chief Minister. The defection of 20 PTI MPs in KPK and a group of 7-8 MPs of PML-N in Punjab in the elections of Senators in 2015 has not faded away from our minds. Definitively, we don’t know the elected representatives were coerced, incentivized or they exercised their right to vote in accordance with their conscience in all these instances.
Despite all these weaknesses in our politics, both the executive and opposition have not mended their ways. To the executive, everything is democratic, lawful, fair and good and serves national interest. When out of power, the opposition considers it a divine right to find fault with everything and every move done or taken by the executive, and suspect every institution for meddling in politics, suppressing facts and highlighting half-baked stories, denying the exaltation of victory to the executive and refusing to accept with grace defeat in any contest perpetuating the bizarre politics we have been practicing in this hapless country.
Our leaders in opposition become overnight angels incapable of any wrongdoing, any wrong move or any fault. They are least bothered what was fair for them yesterday, how it has become unfair today for the executive. Half of the media along with senior journalists, anchors, columnists and intellectuals dance to the tune orchestrated by them to the peril of objective or informed analysis. We have this political divide, this lack of rational thinking, this intellectual chaos and unprofessionalism. From politics to religion, literature, culture –everything you can conjure up – is tainted by this divide.
The upper House or the Senate was the only Institution in the country which had remained aloof of our political wrangling since its creation by the 1973 Constitution. The Senators sitting in that monumental structure are harmless creatures. Their nuisance value is nowhere comparable with the National Assembly members who are instrumental in forming and bringing down any federal government. Their Chairman and Deputy Chairman are also equally harmless. The Senate lately has tried to carve out a role for itself in the state affairs. However, they have no effective role in passing or stemming financial bills, confirming senior appointments, censuring the executive. Their recommendations receive scanty attention from the Ministers or senior bureaucrats.
Our opposition, in order to vent their outrage against the executive, aimed at shooting down the Chairman of the Senate for no obvious reason. The incumbent Chairman has come neither from the ranks of the PTI nor any other political party. He may have had some affiliation with Pakistan People’s Party in the past. He has had the support of the PPP along with the PTI for his elevation to this august position. As I remember, these parties supported him for the chairmanship of the Senate because of his belonging to Balochistan which was to be accommodated against one of the highest political offices of the country. Consistent with the norms of the House, he was impartial and accommodative to every Senator irrespective of his political affiliation. There was no culpable allegation of inefficiency, partisanship or corruption against him.
In an abusive use of their majority in the House, our opposition leaders aimed at him for a brutal kill. One of the senior leaders of the opposition arrogantly claimed ‘they (alluding to the party in power) don’t know me. I am an old player of this field’. Most probably he was oblivious to the history of the past political maneuvers and the fate of the no-confidence motions in the country. He should have taken a pause for introspection. He did not have a valid cause to open a Pandora’s Box adding to the political polarization in the country by aiming at this harmless political statue. The opposition has a constitutional right to bring in a no-confidence motion. But it should have a genuine cause for such a motion.
The opposition leaders were seeking votes from Senators who are people of bone and flash, mind and conscience. They are the conscious sons and daughters of this land. They can well differentiate between good and bad, honesty and dishonesty, truth and falsehood. They are not horses tethered in the stables of political parties. We may remember the Senior Sharif in his second term as the Prime Minister, in exercise of his ‘heavy mandate’, had passed the law making the violation of the party policy liable for disqualification of members. The law was actually meant to strengthen the dynastic stranglehold on the political parties. This law could hardly be found in the established democracies of the world debarring a member from listening to the call of his conscience. The pattern of recent voting on the Brexit in the House of Commons illustratively reflects how members concede to the counsels of prudence, wisdom or their conscience.
It is futile to beat about the bush now or brood over whether the 14 members voting for Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani conceded to the call of their conscience or were coerced or incentivized or tempted by pecuniary considerations. They are all people of honour and dignity from the privileged class. To malign them with charges of this nature is tantamount to degrading them to the extreme. It could be any of these reasons that guided them in deciding what to do in the secret balloting on the no-confidence motion. After all, we have hanged the Damocles’ sword of disqualification on their head in following the call of their conscience or rejecting a move suspected to have been inspired by bile and rage and would result in further political chaos.
My humble advice to the opposition is to accept the setback gracefully and mend their ways for healthy politics in the country. May the Supreme Sovereign bless this country.
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