Bilawal makes full-fledged political entry

So why didn’t PTI chief Imran Khan (IK) bother to attend the moot of parliamentary and party leaders on Kashmir, even when PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto used the opportunity for his maiden full-fledged political entry? Finally made possible under the watchful eyes of Senator Sherry Rehman, Farhatullah Babar and other party uncles.

One argument goes that IK didn’t want ruling party to splash the all possible courteous handshake photo with Premier Nawaz Sharif who was hosting the event. And didn’t want to grace Prime Minister’s House – the venue. For it didn’t serve his and party’s image at a time when they are turning heat on the PML-N and allies on Panama Papers issue.

IK and ilk think of it as decisive mode, defining moment and have already announced to jam-block capital Islamabad sometimes in November if demands on panama Papers investigation are not heeded to. But at the Parliament House on Monday as the two houses resumed proceedings after the eventful Raiwind march, some legislators and journalists seemed indulged in informal discussions, guessing game, whether a no-show repeat performance was expected of the PTI chief in the joint sitting of Parliament slated for Wednesday. But we hear IK won’t miss the opportunity to score points on foreign policy front while exhibiting national solidarity on Kashmir front. PTI, these days, tends to express solidarity with armed forces rather than government of the day as a policy matter.

One can dispute and resent IK’s 2014 dharna days remarks for Parliament, but he knows fully well this is the only forum and path to constitutional power and governance. As for Monday’s no show at the Prime Minister House, PTI’s television talk show argument brigade finds rationale arguing Shah Mahmood Qureshi being parliamentary leader was there to do the bit.

Though PTI expressed reservations over ignoring Sheikh Rashid for the moot, even when he had travelled to meet IK to Nathia Gali all the way to lodge a complaint, but top party tiers were not ready to put any condition for their participation in the moot. So it was business as usual with or without Sheikh Rashid. Interestingly, top tiers in the PTI secretly resent Rashid’s boldness, style, and proximity with IK.

Qureshi represent some saner, pragmatic part of PTI bandwagon, and had earlier on Sunday announced to make it to the meeting, perhaps pre-empting Rashid’s hue and cry on media, and finally with IK. During all this time, some rating hungry television talk show hosts were even seen campaigning to secure a last minute invitation for Rashid. But it was not to be. The PML-N top tiers, it was learnt, were not ready to listen to ‘street wisdom’ of Rashid on a very serious forum, especially after the language he used against the Sharifs in Raiwind last Friday.   So in line with IK’s Nathia Gali retreat to get fresh from exhaustive march days, Rashid went to his Lal Haveli retreat to plan for the much touted Islamabad blockade. Naturally, in aid to PTI for he is the only partner available to PTI these days. Monday was not his Rashid’s day. And that’s why the loud mouth from Rawalpindi didn’t turn up in the National Assembly too where the discussion revolved around FATA reforms.

And as usual, fresh from a successful moot, the treasury and allies seemed so relaxed that a majority of their members didn’t turn up. Not much for domestic political consumption but some relief at last for the PML-N and allies on the heels of Panama Papers related political wrangling. And this was reflective in the National Assembly proceedings as well, though the quorum issue still haunted the treasury. Nearly 8-10 PPP legislators, almost same number of PTI, and a mere 20-25 treasury legislators could be seen around 7 pm as a few items of legislative business were done with after the questions hour.

A permanent fixture though, ministers – Zahid Hamid, Riaz Pirzada, Sheikh Aftab – were seen seated on treasury front rows. Rest, two three in number, kept on coming and leaving swiftly. Interestingly they also kept on shuffling between National Assembly and Senate to make the presence amply felt. Then we could see Achakzai, Ghulam Bilour, Faryal Talpur and rest. Some MQM Pakistan legislators could be seen in a calm, relieved mood.

Only today, their parliamentary leader Farooq Sattar bhai had the best welcome handshake from premier Sharif. MQM Pakistan can act as political safety valve for the PML-N during PPP governance and PTI onslaught etc. On FATA’s stats, Aftab Sherpao had some valid points and arguments as he spoke on FATA reforms report presented by a committee formed by the government. The senior politician demanded holding of census, swift settlement of IDPs in FATA, and merger of FATA with KP province. Sherpao wondered when a war torn country like Afghanistan could merge its tribal areas with rest of the country decades ago, why such an inordinate delay is happening in this country.

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