August Issue 2019

By | Editor's Note | Published 4 months ago

Was it the “voice of conscience” or was it “horse-trading” that led to the defeat of the no-confidence vote against the incumbent Senate Chairman, Sadiq Sanjrani?

The PTI coalition government would have us believe that it was the awakened conscience of 15 opposition senators that led to their unexpected victory.

The opposition meanwhile, that was hoping to garner 63 votes, secured only 50 – 3 short of the winning tally – is crying “foul” and threatening to name and shame the turncoats, who sold their conscience to the PTI for short-term gains.

A livid Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has been demanding that the “selected” chairman resign. Not so long ago, it was his wily father who dumped PPP’s very own, very popular Senate Chairman, Raza Rabbani (who was being seconded by then PML-N government for a second term), for a relatively unknown Sanjrani, and with a sleight of the hand produced the winning numbers for his installation.

Such are the vagaries of politics. But then Asif Zardari is reputed to be a pastmaster in the art of politicking. However, when it comes to the vagaries of the weather, he is totally at sea.

When Karachi had a brief spell of monsoon rains last month, his government in Sindh was caught napping. The streets were totally submerged in water; houses were flooded; gutters were choked; people were stranded; roads were jammed; half of Karachi was drowned in darkness, and more than 20 people lost their lives by drowning or through electrocution.

It was not as if the city fathers had not been forewarned. The MET office issued repeated warnings, but to no avail. Post-rains, they were all there, the city’s “dream team” – Sindh chief minister, mayor, local bodies minister – in full form, facing a battery of flashing cameras in flooded Karachi. Passing the buck as always. The local government blamed the provincial government for lack of funds; the provincial government blamed the centre for shortage of funds, and the centre accused the provincial government of not doing their work despite the excessive funds at their disposal.

The PTI’s Ali Raza Zaidi jumped into the fray by announcing the launch of a two-week ‘Clean Karachi’ campaign. Given that the PTI has been threatening to dislodge the PPP government for some time now, this move is certain to put the PTI in the crosshairs of the PPP, that is already seething with rage at the NAB accountability drive against its leaders. As is the PML-N, with the arrest of most of its front-ranking leaders. The National Assembly presents the scene of a battlefield. Can, or more pertinently, should the PTI government up the ante further, when the business of legislation has come to a standstill as the polarisation in the political sphere continues to grow?

The opposition’s defeat in the Chairman Senate elections may have been a setback, but it could provide them the impetus to join Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s million-man march to Islamabad in October. Will the masses, who are reeling from the skyrocketing prices of essentials and finding it impossible to keep body and soul together, also join forces?

Dark clouds of uncertainty loom on the horizon as Pakistan turns 72.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.

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