The other day I received a message from a dear old friend in Lahore. Both of us being in the same age bracket suffer similar health problems. However, having lived our lives to the brim both of us do not have much too regret about. God has indeed been very kind to us to have kept us going. Commenting on the situation in Pakistan, my friend regretfully says there is little hope for the immediate future. ‘We are facing price spiral. There are millions without job. Education is so costly, now even upper middle class can not afford to build a house.’ He wanted me to enlighten him as to why people are tolerating all this, adding that he apprehends that the situation may degenerate into violent anarchy as there is no organisation, no leader who will be able to turn it into a political movement.’
He lamented a great deal about the lawmakers, journalists and human rights activists facing censorship and persecution in a society that is fast converting itself into a police state. Unlike the previous decade when there were no political prisoners, now a number of even parliamentarians are inside what to talk of escalating number of missing persons and mysterious killings of human rights activists.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto taking part during the recent budget debate questioned the despicable conduct of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, bringing it on record that even the parliamentarians could not speak independently due to history’s worst censorship. He was referring to Speaker’s uncalled for ruling banning use of “selected prime minister” in the house proceedings as unparliamentarily.
Indeed, the ruling by the NA Speaker is the most deplorable manifestation of cronyism in politics. PPP chairman is absolutely right that the word “selected” was not non-parliamentary; ban on its use in Parliament is to satiate Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ego. Bilawal Bhutto rightly warned that the government’s such decisions are like playing with fire” and could possibly lead to fascist consequences.
With country’s economy sinking to the rock bottom, US dollar having crossed Rs 160 plus, it is clear as Bilawal observes that every Pakistani was paying the price of the incumbent government’s faulty decisions. “The investment in the country is at the lowest level. The government is playing with the lives of thousands of people by stopping the funds of hospitals. Provinces have not been given funds according to the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award” and are being strangulated financially.
“There is no freedom in Naya Pakistan. Everyone is a victim of censorship,” he added. Taking a jibe at government’s performance, he said that a common man, who worked hard to collect Rs 500,000, would now have to disclose their sources of income, adding that the government should stop this policy and withdraw the anti-poor budget. He further added that the budget was usurping provincial rights, adding that the PTI-IMF budget showed that the government had surrendered financial writ of the state to the iMF and its hatchet men planted on Pakistan. “The PM made too many promises and average Pakistanis are paying the price for the PTI government’s incompetence.” Indeed, as one looks retrospectively so far into the performance of the government, it has failed to fulfill its promise of giving jobs. Instead of giving jobs, the government is depriving the people of their jobs.”
Bilawal Bhutto also rightly pointed out that the parliament was not complete until the representatives of North and South Waziristan now being detained were produced in this house. “Otherwise, history will record that these members (MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazzeer) and their constituencies were deprived of representation in this House. The freedom of expression is being curbed. Different views are heard in democracies to chalk out policies for the people.”
In his sad concluding remarks, PPP Chairman lamented that in ‘Naya Pakistan’, everything had been destroyed from politics to economy and human rights to judiciary. “The incompetent government is filing references against members of judiciary to put pressure on the institution of judiciary.” Situation being grim at that, as Bilawal believes, this government has to go as Pakistan People’s Party will not compromise nor allow curbs on human rights, political rights, the right of expression and democratic rights.”
Besides Bilawal Bhutto’s timely warning in his speech, the budget session of the National Assembly can be called full of unprecedented actions. Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri’s ruling that Imran Khan cannot be called a “selected prime minister” on the floor of the House is nothing but an action of some one who wants to be known as more loyal than the king. Deputy Speaker’s ruling came on a point of order raised by three-times politically convert Minister for Energy Umer Ayub Khan who suggested that the phrase is a breach of privilege of public representatives.
One wonders why there has been so much fuss over Imran Khan being called a selected prime minister when he actually is. There is nothing indecent about the description, it however, seems that both the minister and the deputy speaker want to show to the boss how extra-ordinarily they are mindful of the image of the person of their prime minister who until the dharna days was known to have come to be known as most foul mouth speaker in PTI followed by his bum chums like Murad Saeed whose adventures with him are explicitly recorded by his ex-wife Reham Khan in her juicy autobiography. One need not remind that Imran Khan used to call the legislature a “parliament of thieves” of which he was himself a member and used to draw his salary from.
The amount of furor raised by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf top leaders that they would not let anybody who insulted the prime minister speak uninterrupted in the House is not understandable. Bilawal Bhutto rightly reminded the house that when he used the word “selected” prime minister for the first time in the Parliament to congratulate prime minister on becoming “selected prime minister”, both Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi along with other PTI parliamentarians profusely cheered him.
Notwithstanding the fact that there is nothing unparliamentarily in the use of the title of “selected”prime minister, the fact that ever since the advent of PTI as a parliamentary party, its members has taken political demagoguery to strange heights of vulgarity. And the most alarming part is that other parties too have joined in the competition with PTI in use of abusive language. Now it seems that every one is going in the same direction, parliament is becoming cess pool of foul language.
Since PTI has failed to deliver in every field and has nothing to offer as relief to the common man except to repeat its mantra that its government is reaping the harvest of the bitter seeds sowed by its predecessors, its leaders see recipe for its safety in brow beating the opposition through foul language. However, the government also knows the consequences of throwing stones at others when its own house is made of glass. Perhaps that is the reason why PTI parliamentarians wants measures such as ban on the use of title “selected” prime minister to safe guard the tainted chastity of the person of the prime minister from all criticism and foul language. It is absolutely right ti understand that it takes two to tango. The social media that his supporters use so extensively to attack and malign his political opponents, is now back firing on him with instant reproduction of his past public utterances most famous being one in which he publicly promised to commit suicide if he ever went to IMF for loan.
It shall remain a matter of public debate whether to use “selected” for the prime minister is inappropriate or not or it could be substituted by words such as “chosen” or “hand-picked”, politics is going to see more of fair is foul, foul is fair. Maulana Fazlul Rehman’s brain child of APC tried to stir a storm in the tea cup but not anything beyond. It is good to see both Bilawal Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz to have toughened up their stance against the government, particularly the prime minister who does not want to be called “selected”. Vintage politicians like Asif Zardari and Shahbaz Sharif – have chosen to adopt a more reconciliatory mode by extending an olive branch to the beleaguered government suggesting that the economic managers should sit down with the opposition to discuss economic problems faced by the country.
Instead of welcoming offer for a national consensus on issues related to economy, the government has opted to establish National Development Council with both Prime Minister and Army Chief as its members. One wonders what would be the end result of it. The need of the hour, however, is to get together the collective wisdom of entire political leadership to sit face to face to find a way out to safer shores. The current state of affairs only spells doom and disaster.
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