Sherry Rehman, a journalist who turned into a politician, is one of my oldest and closest friends in parliament today. With Shahid Khakan Abbassi, I enjoyed a deep respectful relationship.
At the beginning of this column, one feels the need to reveal this before reporting objectively that the story they told through a press conference discussed together Thursday has stated but the whole truth. A set of credible sources, both from the government and the opposition, have separately confirmed that fact as well.
Indeed this was the Imran government envoy, who first approached the opposition for swift approval of certain laws, by consensus, about ten days ago. Most of these laws are needed to facilitate the exclusion of Pakistan from the gray list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
There are also suggestions for “reviewing and reforming” the law, which has given the National Bureau of Accountability (NAB) an almost cruel force in the name of fighting corruption. For prompt and formal deliveries on these fronts, a committee of 25 MPs from the national assembly and the Senate was formed.
The committee did not need time to reach consensus on two laws related to FATF. In the original draft law, certain definitions and expressions have been used, which can be used by hostile and hostile countries against Pakistan, if and when needed. Shahid Khakan Abbassi and Ms. Sherry Rehman don’t need a teacher to see them.
However, Abbassi has been the Prime Minister of Pakistan for more than a year. That enables him to empathetically understand the pressure Pakistan has faced for two decades, when it comes to the issue of “terrorism” and the means to finance it.
Senator Sherry Rehman, on the other hand, was Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, during a very difficult period when relations between Islamabad and Washington became more complicated in the post-Osama environment.
The government also wants that other laws must be upheld to combat what he calls “economic terrorism.” It pretends as if the same law was also requested by the FATF. That surprised the representatives of the opposition. They forcefully demanded how and when the FATF requested the proposed law. The government does not have a satisfying answer.
In the end, it was agreed that “corrections,” suggested by the opposition, would be incorporated into two laws related to FATF. Then attention was shifted to “reviewing and reforming” the NAB empowerment law. At no point during the negotiations,
The opposition has taken a position that will work together in passing legislation related to FATF, only if the government agrees to soften the NAB empowerment law as well.
But Shah Mehmud Qureshi, the foreign minister, savagely sabotaged the growing consensus. On Tuesday sitting in the national assembly earlier this week, he entered the house with his usual furious and gave a very long speech.
Through the same thing, he passionately promotes the story that instead of rushing to the passage of FATF-related laws, as required by the “highest national interest,” the opposition has tried hard to get it. In return for his cooperation, compensation is almost sought for opposition leaders, currently facing serious corruption charges.
After claiming this, he continues to rumble the message that fighting corruption remains “the main agenda” of Imran Khan’s politics. He would not admit even an inch in this matter, rain or shine. In order to eradicate corruption, he was even willing to sacrifice his government.
The opposition was not given the right to tell the side of the story. Shah Mehmud Qureshi preferred to leave home after promoting a narration, which seriously damaged the image and reputation of the two main opposition parties.
The opposition failed to manage damage control the day after and on Wednesday the Imran government passed legislation relating to FATF passed by voting. Doing this, of course, seemed to bulldoze.
The law, ratified in a hurry from the national assembly, will be submitted to the Senate on Thursday. The Imran government does not even enjoy a simple majority there; the combined amount of opposition is rather persistent. The upper house of parliament can easily ‘reject’ laws related to FATF, already approved by the lower house.
But Shah Mehmud Qureshi has cleverly twisted and promoted a narrative, which can question the ‘patriotic’ credibility of opposition senators, if they correctly reject the laws approved by the national assembly. However, the opposition intelligently handled the matter and during the committee meeting persuaded the government that certain amendments, which had been proposed, had to be included in the version, eventually had to be approved by the Senate. Doing this, it reaches a win-win solution.
With minor changes, the Senate approved two FATF-related laws on Thursday, almost by consensus. Only Jamiat-e-Ulma-e-Islam (JUI) Maulana Fazlur Rehman loudly expressed differences of opinion. Reading a written statement to express the same thing, Senator Atta-ur-Rehman, who is the younger brother of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, also announced the distance from the two main opposition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and PPP. He was somewhat cheated and betrayed by “our friends in the opposition.” This also hampered the possibility of a large alliance of opposition parties, hopes which began to revive with the start of the ongoing week.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman went to Lahore to call Shehbaz Sharif, President of PML-N. The day after this meeting, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was also seen standing next to the PML-N leader. A loud tremor to launch a mass movement to overthrow the Imran government, after Eid al-Fitr, was clearly visible during this meeting. It also triggers hype on ordinary and social media.
Shah Mehmud Qureshi felt too good and happy with the win-win incident on Thursday. He was a little too sweet when he praised the “maturity and sincerity” of the opposition parties, which helped quickly approve FATF-related laws. Almost like a sycophant, he continued to thank the senators who worked together. He recognized them as ‘patriots’, showing the will to think, “not for their people or their respective political parties, but for the state of Pakistan and the highest national interest.”
After a tiring speech from Shah Mehmud Qureshi, the PTI senators felt the need to reiterate that things had just not changed between their party and the PML-N and PPP combos. Wasim Shezad, home leader in the Senate, played the first shot in this context by remembering how “easily” a “light killer of Pakistanis, Raymond Davis,” was allowed to leave Pakistan. This US citizen has been employed ‘under contract’ to take care of his country’s ‘security interests’ by placing himself in Lahore.
The real attack came from Senator Faisal Javed, a loyal loyalist of Imran Khan. With mocking tones and tickling words, he mocked the ‘legacy’ of the two main opposition parties. Without naming names, he gave a heavy signal to remember that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the founder of PPP, had joined politics as minister Ayub Khan, the first military dictator. Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, rose and rose on the stage of power under the protective wing of another military dictator, General Zia.
Imran Khan had never enjoyed such protection, he recalled proudly, and had reached the Prime Minister’s Office after a 22-year struggle. Javed was very confident that after completing his five-year term, PTI would return to power with a mandate far heavier after the next election.
In praising its leader, Senator Mohsin Aziz went further. He insisted that Prime Minister Imran Khan was “God’s gift” to Pakistan. He remains fortunate to have people like Shehbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who lead the main opposition parties.
Political art, of course, is about narrative perception and promotion. Viewed from this angle, the Imran government must have scored point after point for the past three days. They seemed justified to “celebrate victory” in the Senate on Thursday after management’s deft perception game.