JUI-F, MQM speak of their own grievances after PM’s call

Published August 6, 2015
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing the National Assembly on Wednesday.—INP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing the National Assembly on Wednesday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: A last-minute appeal by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to two parties in the National Assembly on Wednesday to withdraw their motions seeking to deseast 28 lawmakers of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for their long absence from the house drew little immediate assurances but cries of their own grievances.

The house had put off a vote on the motions tabled by the government-allied Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) and the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on Tuesday until Thursday after the two parties said the ruling party had not consulted them during a previous one-week postponement about its decision to oppose the motions for the stated purpose of a political reconciliation.

The prime minister intervened in the National Assembly’s proceedings to recall what he called a well-considered decision by his Pakistan Muslim League-N made last week to oppose the deseating motions and appeal to other parties to do the same and said: “I once again request (JUI-F chief) Maulana Fazlur Rehman and our friends in the MQM to withdraw their motions.”

But neither party gave an immediate assurance to comply with the prime minister’s wish or a similar one voiced by opposition leader Khursheed Ahmed Shah as they awaited fresh contacts from government negotiators before their motions are due to be taken up again by the house on Thursday morning.

Instead, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and MQM deputy parliamentary leader Abdul Rashid Godail devoted major parts of their speeches to condemn the PTI leadership for what they called humiliation of parliament during the party’s 126-day sit-in, outside the parliament house last year besides voicing grouses of their own parties they seemed interested to take up with the government.

The JUI-F chief’s main grouse was against an alleged bias shown by authorities against religious madrassahs in the crackdown against terrorism while Mr Godail lamented what he called excesses, including extrajudicial killings, suffered by the Urdu-speaking followers of his party in the name of an anti-crime crackdown.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s harangue against the PTI frequently drew applause also from PML-N back-benchers in an indication of their keenness to avenge the oft-complained abuse directed against their own leaders day and night from a container the PTI used for its leaders to speak from during the sit-in.

“I am sorry that … in your presence I have to speak their mind,” he told the prime minister while referring to cheers from the PML-N members, and added a poetic colour to his suggestion for a meeting with him with a couplet of Ghalib: ‘Main bhi moonh mein zaban rakhta hoon, kaash poochho key nudha kia hai” (I also have a tongue in my mouth, alas if you ask what I want to say).”

But the prime minister gave no indication if he would grant a personal hearing to the Maulana or leave a possible bargain to a committee that he said had been set up but had been unable to settle the issue “according to our wishes”.

He said the JUI-F and MQM should show broad-mindedness by withdrawing their motions to end what he called a situation of uncertainty, and added: “There is benefit for all in this.”

But the prime minister criticised PTI chairman Imran Khan for his unspecified remarks against the JUI-F chief during a news conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, saying the utterances had not only injured the Maulana’s sentiments “but also pained me”.

Mr Khurshid Shah,while reiterating his demand for a withdrawal of the two motions, also regretted utterances against the Maulana and said jokingly that Imran was a man with “no future strategy” and “should be allowed to say such things”.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2015

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