A theater of the absurd – Nusrat Javed


Each member of this National Assembly, whether sitting on the government or the opposition benches, has increasingly begun to look and behave like the desolate tramps of Samuel Beckett who keep “waiting for Godot,” while seemingly trapped in a hopeless situation. Tragedy is that instead of feeling any sympathy for these tramps, you feel tempted to laugh at their “naivety.” And that creates the theatre of the absurd.

During an otherwise yawn-inducing question hour Thursday evening, speaker after speaker stood from the treasury benches to wonder as to how and why an allegedly Machiavellian-type person was able to continue getting himself “elected” as the head of the Pakistan Olympics Association.

The rules, regulating this body, did not permit someone to hold this position for more than three terms. But the said person managed to change the constitution of this association and got himself “elected” for a fifth consecutive term. His holding the said position looks doubly astonishing if you care remembering that Pakistan consistently fails to mark its presence during the Olympics games by any standards.

Iqbal Siddique is a prominent MNA representing the MQM (Pakistan). This party is a weighty ally of the Imran Government. Yet, Mr Siddique kept wailing over the unbeatable clout of the said person.

Dr Fehmida Mirza also looks after the sports-related issues in this country as the Federal Minister of Inter-Provincial Affairs. She represents the Grand Democratic Alliance of the PPP-hating landlords and tribal chiefs of Sindh. Before joining the said alliance, she had relished prominent positions in the PPP for more than two decades.

Her husband, Dr Zulfikar Mirza, had been a bosom buddy of Asif Ali Zardari and thanks to her powerful networking, the PPP decided to get her elected as the Speaker of the National Assembly, which worked from 2008 to 2013.

She, however, took the floor to crib over the sway of the discussed person and expressed “the hope” that the Prime Minister should do something to check it. One simply failed to fathom as to why a presumably powerful minister felt the need of expressing hope while speaking from the floor of a “sovereign National Assembly,” like its ordinary members.

Almost every Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been creating history of the sorts in this country by holding his cabinet meetings. We are given to believe that almost each important issue under the sun is exhaustively discussed during the said meeting. Why did she lack to courage to assure her colleague that during the next cabinet meeting, she would certainly persuade the Prime Minister to do something substantive to check the alleged mess at the Pakistan Olympics Association?

Also bewildering remained the fact that none of the speakers, including the minister in-charge, dared to naming the person continuously holding an influential position for the consecutive fifth term, by allegedly employing schemes you mostly watch in shows like the Game of Thrones.

Between you, the lamppost and me, I do know the name of the person being discussed. Why should I name him, however, if honourable members, savoring the privileges of “parliamentary supremacy,” did not dare to name him? Please go to Goggle, type Pakistan Olympic Association and find out the name. That will also introduce you to the blessings of “Open Source Journalism.”

From the treasury benches, I also heard a lot of cribbing from the house, complaining that the swarms of rats had invaded the parliamentary lounges in Islamabad. Its roofs and bathrooms are leaking and heaps of the rubbish there was not letting residents to breathe properly. No minister was willing to commit an assuaging word to honourable members of the National Assembly, who live at parliamentary lodges.

After the question hour, Ahsan Iqbal of the PML-N took the floor to remind the chair that the Punjab government had yet not allowed Khawaja Saad Rafique to reach Islamabad and attend the ongoing assembly session. The Speaker had signed on the “production order” for him; he didn’t do it for Rana Sanaullah. “Production Orders” to ensure the presence of Asif Ali Zardari in house proceedings had also been signed. He could not attend due to precarious health and Shahid Khakan Abbasi does not want to enjoy the “selective discretion” of the Speaker.

After delivering a lengthy speech, related to the issue of production orders to facilitate arrested members’ presence in the House, the PML-N leader announced to walk out of the house in protest along with him colleagues.

Sardar Akhtar Mengal had been asking for the floor, though. Qasim Suri, the deputy speaker, for a change, decided to act generous to him and in deference, PML-N opted to stay put in the house and attentively listen to Mengal’s speech.

Sardar Akhtar Mengal heads the Balochistan National Party (BNP). This outfit is also an ally of the Imran Government. Like his father, Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Akhtar is also a former chief minister of the resource-rich province of Pakistan.

He also kept whining over the arrest of four women from Awaran, a “disturbed district” of Balochistan, “under trumped-up charges of abetting terrorism.” After telling his side of the story regarding their arrest, Akhtar Mengal delivered a passionate speech to wail over the historic and accumulated grievances of Balochistan. He did sound ominous while recalling the collective wounds.

After delivering an impassioned speech, he announced to sit along with his colleagues to demand the release of the arrested women.

The PML-N MNAs did not join him. Ironically, though, MNAs from Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a party perceived as representing the religious-right, decided to sit with him. Pakistan Peoples Party felt shy of abandoning the protesting crowd. Ms Shazia Marri took the lead in persuading her colleagues to express sympathy with the cause, Akhtar Mengal had passionately agitated about.

Abdul Qadir Patel of the PPP, meantime, pointed out the quorum. Required number to carry on with the assembly business was not present in the house and it was adjourned to meet again on Friday morning.

After enduring nonstop whining and complaining, mostly from the ministers and influential allies of the government like Akhtar Mengal, one was compelled to wonder as to how the present National Assembly could ever deliver some relief to inflation-hit mass of our people.

The members of this august house can surely not furnish decent and clean living for the mortals of this country while living in lodges, they claim have been invaded by swarms of rats.

Who should we look up to for seeking some solace, when “our representatives” themselves look living like the tramps of Samuel Becket, hopelessly “Waiting for Godot?”