Just another ridiculous joint session in the Pakistani Parliament

Published: April 7, 2015

They struggled to bring PTI back so that their minister could reciprocate Imran’s verbal aggression?

They struggled to bring PTI back so that their minister could reciprocate Imran’s verbal aggression? The joint session will devise national policy towards the emerging situation in Yemen.

They questioned the legitimacy of Parliament. They objected to the transparency and fairness of the general elections in 2013. They protested and resigned, making their return conditional upon the formation of an inquiry commission to probe into the allegations of rigging during the 2013 elections. And they returned to Parliament after the promulgation of an Ordinance establishing that very commission.

So what was all the fuss about?

Yesterday, during the Parliament’s joint session which was called to discuss the pertinent Saudi-Yemen issue and Pakistan’s role therein, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) legislators returned to the National Assembly after seven whole months.

Once again, despite all its vices, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) proved to be the most, if not the only, democratic party when the opposition leader welcomed PTI and its leader to the house. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and one very vocal minister from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) were not so welcoming.

Fazlur Rehman has a hate-hate relationship with the PTI and Imran Khan, owing to the latter tapping into his party’s vote bank in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). His displeasure with PTI’s return to Parliament and consequent elimination of the opportunity to contest for and win by-elections on the seats vacated by PTI was quite obvious.

MQM also has a long standing enmity with PTI which can be attributed to PTI’s, and especially Imran’s, occasional bold statements against Altaf Hussain and his party. Legislators from MQM raised the issue of pending resignations tendered by PTI members. It is surprising that MQM could not digest a retraction of resignations, considering how it has become a hobby for their beloved leader.

They quoted Article 64 of the Constitution and conveniently overlooked National Assembly’s Rules of Procedure whereby the Speaker can refuse to accept a resignation if satisfied that it was not tendered voluntarily. If a member or members are sitting before the Speaker in the National Assembly, the Speaker need not ask such members if they stand by their resignations or not. If the resignations were not accepted when the members were consistently absent from the house, they cannot be accepted now when they are present.

The odd and not so surprising outburst came from the Defence Minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif. Odd because his party claimed to have worked really hard to bring PTI back to Parliament for the “larger interest of democracy” and not so surprising because Asif’s words were pretty much in line with PML-N’s “democratic” trends.

They struggled to bring PTI back so that their minister could reciprocate Imran’s verbal aggression? Was it a move to bring the enemy on your turf and then hit him where it hurts? I am sure this was not the case, but Mr Minister sure made it seem like that.

Asif questioned why PTI members, and especially Imran, were sitting in the same Parliament they had previously termed as bogus and illegitimate, and accused it of coming into power through rigging. It is again not so surprising that a PML-N senior member has assumed that formation of a judicial commission implies Imran’s retraction of rigging allegations.

If PTI has fought for a probe into the rigging allegations, and that probe is under way, why would they accept Parliament as legitimate before the findings of the commission?

Asif’s fiery speech, which was anything but parliamentary, has apparently been lauded on social media. It seems to have satisfied the appetite for vengeance that PML-N supporters sought on PTI for having verbally ridiculed them and their leadership for months.

Sitting on treasury benches and being a minister calls for some responsibility. It is not like Imran’s onslaught has not been responded to by PML-N on various forums. But to choose to vent out your anger in Parliament, in a joint session with an agenda so important, was extremely immature and irresponsible. PTI, very appropriately, did not reciprocate.

Imran obviously did not expect a warm reception with garlands. He made his return to Parliament conditional upon the formation of a judicial commission; he had on many occasions resolved never to sit in a fake and bogus Parliament. But the recently signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) and the forfeiture of more than one demand therein, foretells PTI’s future stance.

The MoU favours PML-N more than it does PTI. It may just be a face saving opportunity for Imran and his party. Having realised the futility of his protests, Imran might just have agreed to wait his turn. Political victory is not only evident in the MoU clauses but also in PML-N blatantly allowing its minister to hit PTI when it’s down.

Imran returned to Parliament because he knows what fruits a toothless commission will bear, and also because he does not want to stay out of the assemblies till the next general elections – and maybe, just maybe, because he has been assured that steps will be taken towards electoral reforms, ensuring that the next elections will be free, fair and transparent.

The joint session was, however, more about petty political score settling than deciding the fate of our future foreign policy.

Yesterday’s session gave credence to the rumoured assertion that decisions on foreign and defence policies are now being taken elsewhere, while politicians are allowed to play around during their sessions and meetings. As we saw, they did not take any decisions, they only played.


Zafar Zulqurnain Sahi

A Lawyer by profession. A Gold Medalist in LLB from Punjab University and has a LLM degree from University of Warwick, UK. He is also a former Member Provincial Assembly of Punjab (2008-2013). He tweets @ZafarSahi (twitter.com/ZafarSahi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Yousaf Haque

    Yesterday’s joint-less joint session reminds me of a cartoon where a young kid is shown beating his friend in the backyard of his home.When asked by his mother why he was beating the boy who was called to play as a friend,the young boy replied that he had brought his friend home not to play but to do what he was doing.Invitation was just a trapRecommend

  • just_someone

    I read ‘…Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) proved to be the most, if not the only, democratic party…’ and stopped reading after that.
    Can the educated author define democracy? Is it one where the mantle of a party is handed from parent to child like personal property?
    I apologize good sir… maybe my PhD didnt give me enough sense to understand what democracy is, can you please clarify?Recommend

  • Aik-Paki

    WE all know that N-league is capable of a suicide attack on itself. This the same Khawja who attacked Supreme Court in the past to please his boss. Why don’t he ask his speaker to accept the resignations and we can have re-elections on all the vcant PTI seats.Recommend

  • Maverick_NZ

    I stopped reading after “…..etc. etc.. political victory for PMLN”Recommend

  • Parvez

    I would tend to agree with you….on watching the proceedings the perception I got was that PML-N realized that they were not going to get the endorsement on Yemen that they desired and so tried to divert the attention through needless bluster.Recommend

  • farhan

    author must be a pti member.Recommend

  • PTI won’t save face with indignant defenses like this. This whole write up is proof of just how indefensible IK is in his shamelessness.Recommend

  • syed & syed

    What else can you expect from this parliament or senate. You may do any thing Nawaz Sahib will run to save his overseas interestsRecommend

  • Zafar Z. S.

    I would think so. How can some one save anything with a defense that is not meant to be a defense.Recommend

  • Zafar Z. S.

    No sir! Author is NOT a pti member. If anything, the author’s father is a PMLN member, and to address your next probable assumption: NO! the author is not anti-father either.Recommend

  • Zafar Z. S.

    Doctor sb. I assume you have heard of the phrase “andhon mein kana raja”. By asserting that PPP is probably the most democratic, I did not imply that it abides by all principles of democracy.Recommend

  • Uzair

    Biased towards PTI. It’s funny how the author hasn’t mentioned that members that are absent from the parliament for more than 40 days are considered non-functional.
    Author also failed to mention the double standards of IK in resigning from national assembly, but retaining the provincial government positions in KPK. Objectivity requires examining the positives with the negatives.
    IK’s three month stint on the container proved to be just rhetoric with no substance. However, PTI has managed to keep the incumbent government(s) on their toes (a little bit). There is hope for electoral reforms next time around because of PTI’s somewhat promising stand against rigging in polls.Recommend

  • Mehreen
  • Mehreen

    The title of the article made me think that it was another politician bashing article but it turned out to be a well thought out piece.

    I think PTI came back to the assembly after realising that their protest movement was a failure and the ordinance was clearly a face saving attempt. In any case their coming back to the parliament is a good move and credit should be given to both PML-N and PTI for showing flexibility.
    Here’s hoping that Imran Khan has learned a lesson or two from it but knowing Khan sb, it seems like a far stretch.

    Even if the foreign policy decisions are being made somewhere else, the political debate on it in the national assembly is a good omen. Appearances matter and we must realise that our nascent democracy will take time to strengthen, the shifting of power from establishment to parliament will take its time and we should be patient for that to happen.Recommend

  • http://www.roadtohotel.com.com Khuzaima Ismail

    Now this have become so common, no one caresRecommend

  • Zafar Z. S.

    What is really funny is how, on different pieces of writing, I have been accused of showing bias towards PTI, PMLN, the “establishment” and, on one occasion, even ‘islamophobes’. I don’t know about objective writing, but objective reading seems to be extinct.
    I did not mention that members who are absent from parliament for 40 days are considered ‘non-functional’..because it is an inaccurate assertion. You are referring to Article 64(2) of the constitution, which starts with “a House may..”. So it isn’t mandatory and rests upon the Speaker’s discretion, and obviously the House or the Speaker have not declared the said seats vacant so…they are not ‘non-functional’ members, if there is such a thing.
    As for “failing to mention” other things, well I understand I failed to mention everything that I did not mention in this piece. Thank you for pointing one of those gazillion things. :)Recommend

  • PapaTango

    Quote: ” Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) proved to be the most, if not the only, democratic party when….” Really? The party that has been bequeathed from generation to generation. I see that the author is saying that by using the phrase that “PPP is probably the most democratic, I did not imply that it abides by all principles of democracy..” In the country of the blind, the one-eyed is king. I defer: in ANY definition of democracy, PPP does not even abide by any of the items of the democracy checklist….hence does not even qualify as one-eyed. In terms of perspective, I thought the author was PPP but then others think he is PTI. Well balanced, indeed.Recommend

  • Sidra Rashid

    A pragmatic and pithy piece of writing..I appreciate author’s disinterested and rationale stance.Recommend

  • Uzair

    I think there can be no fully objective pieces of writing, because everyone has conscious and/or sub-conscious biases, prejudices and stereotypes that cloud their judgment. I feel that the article should have focused on how PML-N leader’s tirade digressed from the primary objective of the joint session (Yemen situation).Good day to you :)Recommend

  • Uzair

    Doesn’t that make Jamaat-e-Islami the most democratic party (in relative terms) in Pakistan?Recommend

  • Uzair

    Doesn’t that make Jamaat-e-Islami the most democratic party (in relative terms) in Pakistan?Recommend