In a resolution unanimously endorsed by the joint sitting of parliament, political parties across the board expressed undivided and unequivocal support for their Kashmiri brethren suffering Indian atrocities.
Although the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf’s (PTI) absence – it boycotted the session arguing it was only meant to divert attention from the Panama Papers – was the highlight of the sitting, it was the ruling party’s jaded performance that really hurt the purpose of the joint session.
On the last day of the three-day sitting, when the house gave its approval to the resolution, the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) in its daily fact sheet reported that 120 parliamentarians (27pc) were present at the outset of the session, against 85 (19pc) at its adjournment.
In a combined house of 446 members — 342 from the National Assembly and 104 from the Senate —the resolution got the approval of merely 19pc of parliamentarians.
But it’s not only the lack of attendance; ruling party members hardly showed any interest in the proceedings of the joint sitting.
On the first day, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made his opening speech, ruling party members were in attendance with full aplomb. But soon after the prime minister left the house, it presented a deserted look.
Besides the total disinterest on the government’s part, a major chunk of the three-day session was also consumed by PML-N and PPP lawmakers, who made strongly-worded speeches against each other.
For once, the sitting wore the look of a completely divided house, with both PML-N and PPP lawmakers predicting doomsday scenarios for each other’s leaders.
They even accused each other of committing treason – in a sitting whose only purpose was letting the world know that Pakistan stands united against Indian aggression at the Line of Control (LoC).
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah duly reminded the government that the prime minister’s presence would only add more significance to the resolution at the time of its passage.
When confronted with the statistics from the session and the message this would send to the world, a senior member of the ruling party made an interesting argument.
The joint sitting was convened at the request of all other parliamentary parties, therefore, it was the collective responsibility of everyone to make sure it was a success, he contended.
“The 19pc attendance is a poor reflection on all of us, but one cannot just hold the government responsible for this lack of interest.”
To another question, the treasury member also contested the fact that the lack of attendance had a negative impact on the outcome of session.
“Except the PTI, leaders from all other parties spoke their minds on the issue of Kashmir, which was duly reflected in the resolution. What else was the sitting called for?”
When asked to comment on the PTI’s stance – that after the multi-party conference where everyone supported the Kashmir cause, there was no need for the joint sitting – an incumbent PPP lawmaker agreed with their contention.
The PPP leader revealed that after the PTI announced its decision to boycott the sitting, quite a few PPP lawmakers wanted to follow the suit.
However, it was the party’s Sindh-based leadership that prevailed upon Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to attend the sitting. The PPP leader said that instead of serving the purpose, the joint sitting had only laid bare the differences between the two parties.
Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2016