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It is just not cricket!

M. Ziauddin

What had happened in the National Assembly on three consecutive days mid-June (June 15-17) was, to say the least, an un-parliamentary episode. Such in-House uproars do occur not infrequently in Parliaments the world over. In a parliamentary system of governance, it is routine for the Opposition to kick up the ruckus at the slightest provocation. At times, the Opposition dangles a phony bait to lure the treasury benches into a shouting match—a filibustering trap. On such occasions the government benches routinely do bend backwards to restore normality in the House so as to wrap up the business at hand as smoothly and as quickly as possible.

But to everyone’s surprise on that fateful Monday it was the treasury benches who had provoked the Opposition with an unabashed onslaught. The Opposition reacted equally abrasively, thus began a shouting match which the next day degenerated into scuffles and abuses with the budget books seen flying like missiles both ways and the NA security staff trying, in vain, to keep the two factions physically apart.

On Wednesday the Speaker quickly adjourned the session while Shahbaz was making his third abortive attempt to speak amidst the noisy rumpus. While adjourning- ing, the Speaker said, rather ominously: “I will not conduct this House (NA) until both the government and the opposition [settle their matters].”

In a way, the battle lines had already been drawn when the government side made it very clear earlier on Tuesday that if the Opposition wanted to speak without disruption, they would have to give in writing that they would not disrupt Prime Minister Imran Khan whenever he spoke in the House.

Shehbaz responded saying if the Opposition’s speeches were listened to without any disruption then “we would reciprocate and listen to the speeches of the leader of the House.”
Of course, no one would disagree with Speaker Qaiser that keeping the House in order is the joint responsibility of the government and the opposition. But, he would also not disagree with the notion that it is the sole responsibility of the government to have the budget passed in time after having it properly debated. And he is also perhaps aware that the Opposition, no matter of which political color or hue would do everything within its political powers to make it impossible for the government to get the budget passed without any let or hindrance.

For the next 48 hours or so it had appeared as if a political logjam had seized the National Assembly. The Speaker and his deputy were on no-confidence notices. And the members sitting on the two sides of the aisle in the National Assembly seemed in no mood to seek a peaceful settlement.

The Speaker, however, seems to have somehow succeeded in persuading the treasury benches to let Shahbaz speak in relative peace. Perhaps his warning that he would not conduct the House unless the two, government and opposition settled their dispute had worked despite Mr. Khan’s loathing for ‘giving in’ to the Opposition’s conditions. At least no written assurance seems to have been proffered by the Opposition.

Bilawal’s speech was also listened to without any disruptions. But the speeches since from the treasury benches sounded more like ‘opposition’s rants’ as most of them rather than talk about Tarin’s budget kept passing the blame for the current economic crises in the country to the economic mismanagement and massive embezzlement of public money allegedly indulged in by the PPP and PMLN in their respective tenures.

The trouble is, Mr. Khan since coming to power has been refusing to recognize the Opposition as legitimate political adversar- ies who, nevertheless, having bagged enough votes in the general elections have been giving the ruling coalition a run for its money. The PM has been denouncing the Opposition as looters and robbers, not worthy of even sharing a table with them what to talk of sitting across the aisle in the same House. No one would disagree with the PM’s corruption agenda. But condon- ing NAB’s sloppy style of persecuting the opposition leadership with flimsy evidence does little credit to his mission.

And, by the way, how do you run a Parlia- ment without an Opposition? You can’t play the role of both the treasury and the opposi- tion all at the same time, which Mr. Khan has been trying to pull off as if by a conjuring act, all these past three years but, in the process, he seems to have only failed to do justice to even the role he was elected for.

Kaptan sahib, it is just not cricket. But cricket had stopped being a gentleman’s game long ago when Kerry Packer’s pack of five had sold their respective national teams for a few Australian dollars. Packer had set up the World Series Cricket (1976-79) by secretly signing agreements in return for big bucks with the then England captain Tony Greig, West Indies captain Clive Lloyd, Australian captain Greg Chappell, future Pakistani captain Imran Khan and former Australian Captain Ian Chappell.

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