ISLAMABAD: Of Raza’s elusive committees and Sherry’s Sherman on Leghari

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By Mohammad Malick
I have good news and bad news, so let’s begin with the good. The good news is that leader of the Upper House Raza Rabbani assured his Senate peers that the government was committed to implementing the in-camera security resolution and that the critically important and non-partisan Oversight Parliamentary Committee would be “constituted very soon”. The bad (and real) news is that Raza had made the same commitment two weeks back and judging by the ongoing political churn, we just may hear him reiterating the same commitment another week down the road.His assurance had been forced by the issue raised by leader of the opposition Kamil Ali Agha in a rare display of a coherent discourse. He insisted that the government did not appear serious on this count and offered that all parliamentary party heads would nominate their committee members within one hour of being asked by the government. You cannot get any quicker than this now, can you. The question of why this inordinate delay is not without merit considering the enormity and urgency of the issue of terrorism that is proving the root cause of our economic and political crises. The unexplained delay is also inflicting a serious perception damage as it is cementing the growing general impression that the US government is employing strong-arm tactics to ensure that the purportedly made-in-Pakistan anti-terrorism policy does not see the light of the day and hence it is forcing the government to simply render the entire exercise dysfunctional (at least for the time being) by delaying the formation of the Oversight Committee as the actual implementation of the conceived consensus would begin only once the committee becomes effective.

Of course, these are mere conjectures as such are bound to come up in unclear situations but the government would do well to remember that in today’s world perceptions are more important than reality itself and this ongoing delay may cause it to lose the initiative and a sense of optimism gained by the historic in-camera session. The oversight committee must be formed without any further delay because that, too, would be just the beginning and the committee has its work cut out for it and even if there are certain unexpressed reservations of the rulers, there is nothing that cannot be managed. But right now, the most important thing is for the people to see the beginning of the process of the implementation of the deliberations of parliament.

But the committee wasn’t the end of Raza’s pledges. Responding to another question he reiterated for the umpteenth time again that the government stood committed to revoking the despised 17th Amendment and that the parliamentary committee, as desired by the president, to deal with this issue, too, shall be “constituted very soon”. This phrase has taken on a very familiar ring now, hasn’t it? So maybe the next time Raza leads the house in another session someone should ask him to explain what time-span does “very soon” constitute in the Raza-lexicon. Is it four weeks, for weeks, or simply for ever?

But while we may have to wait for some time to know the meaning of Raza’s very soon, trust the fiery Sherry Rehman to spell it out in the plainest and most painful terms, as surely the younger Leghari learnt to his obvious discomfort today. It all started when Senator Jamal Leghari, son for former president Sardar Farooq Leghari, went starboard on the government and the president. It was as if the young Leghari scion had been shown an invisible red rag as he charged straight into the government accusing it of total mismanagement, incompetence, corruption you name it, and probably in the heat of the moment also made some highly personalised remarks pertaining to Asif Zardari. So far so good, but then he needlessly thrust his hands in the proverbial beehive when he cynically thanked Sherry Rehman for being around to hear him speak. Unseen to us mortals, the invisible red rag apparently was now flagged right before the information minister’s table because barely had Jamal Leghari sat down looking around triumphantly at his opposition peers that Sherry sprang up from her seat and simply let the young Baloch Sardar have it.

It would not be wrong to say that Sherry did a Sherman on Jamal Khan (You remember the punch of the German Sherman tanks that nearly routed the allied forces during the WWII). Just to give you an idea of the harshness of her response, her kindest remark was describing the Leghari clan as “Ehsaan Faramosh” and reminding Jamal Leghari about how his family (read: father) had betrayed Mohtarma Shaheed Bhutto and the legacy of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (a clear reference at his dismissal of the Benazir-led PPP government) and their cosying up to dictators (again a direct reference to Farooq Leghari supporting President Musharraf in the recent past). She fumed that while the last government could not even get a defence briefing for a Senate select committee, the present government had gotten the top Army brass to come and answer parliament. But that wasn’t the end of it as Sherry apparently wanted to settle quite some scores. She went on to point out that every time the country was in the midst of a grave crisis, whether it was the 1971 break-up or the 2008 financial catastrophe, the PPP was always there to shoulder responsibility and not shirk it like other contemporary political outfits and leaders.

For the PPP government it was nice that Sherry had dropped into the house after attending a select committee meeting but as was pointed out in the last columns, it was again a house with almost no PPP senators. Barring Senators Enver Baig (with his bold tie) and Safdar Abbasi (with his brooding looks), once again all other PPP senators were conspicuous by their continued absence. I can understand the absence of Law Minister Farooq Naek and Attorney-General Latif Khosa for the next few days from all public venues (because shame tends to drive people indoors) but where is the rest of the PPP flock? It’s about time the party leadership takes a serious notice of such behaviour and come March it better choose people, who choose to attend future Senate sessions.


Source: The News, 31/10/2008


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