Is there a silver-lining ?

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Zaheer Bhatti

WITH the office of the Speaker both at the Centre and the Provinces becoming mouthpieces of respective Parties and partisan conduct flouting the oath of their office to conduct proceedings in the Assemblies with neutrality, the Senate was the only saving grace of the System with Reza Rabbani’s exceptional handling of the Upper House and lending dignity to the truly representative institution. But unfortunately, the image and sanctity of this august house has also been tarnished with the worst ever horse-trading initiated by Asif Ali Zardari in his bid to seizing control of the Upper House where his PPP at polls for both Houses of Parliament had lost majority.
PML-N, despite all manoeuvrings and manipulations against it, emerged as the largest Party in the Senate and has the moral and principled privilege to bring the Chairman of its choice; Syed Mushahid Hussain and Raja Zafarulhaq in that order due to their acceptable posture among national institutions but the former with an edge due to his international exposure and experience with the Foreign Relations Committee appears to be their natural choice. But ideally, if the Parliamentarians rose above themselves and got Reza Rabbani re-elected as Chairman Senate unanimously since he commands respect among the entire Upper House due to his truly non-partisan conduct, principled posture and impeccable performance, it would give Pakistan’s ailing democracy a shot in the arm and radically improve Pakistan’s international image particularly in view of the forthcoming US-Pakistan dialogue.
Unfortunately the political landscape has been so muddied that it smells a rat in Nawaz Sharif declaring support for re-election of Senator Reza Rabbani of PPP in preference to any of its own PML-N candidate in view of his (Rabbani) admirable handling of proceedings during his last tenure. One would confound all negative thinking particularly that of Zardari who has flatly refused to field Reza Rabbani reportedly because he was un-pliable and impartial and, among other things, had declined to table Resolutions in favour of Zardari’s corruption mates Dr. Asim and Sharjeel Memon. Nawaz Sharif must view the Court decision disallowing PML-N candidates to the Senate under the Party banner as God-ordained because nothing could stop them from nominating anyone from any Party in their capacity as Independents.
Being short only by 4 to clinch overall simple majority, PML-N could surely muster support of more than that number by working on MQM which holds fresh grouse against Zardari for buying out its MPs and PPP’s continued ill-treatment in Sindh, besides luring in some other minority Parties and Independents.Re-installing Reza Rabbani besides souring Zardari’s dream would earn Nawaz Sharif many political pluses in the process. It will be seen as a positive development on the political canvas and also help strengthen Pakistani Foreign Secretary’s base during her US sojourn, because Reza Rabbani has always pleaded for rapprochement and dialogue among national institutions besides delivering an unambiguous country narrative of a united and sovereign Pakistan to the outside world. In continuing to play the super-cop, it is good news quoting US Acting Secretary of State that the US while not desiring to impair ties with Pakistan, is not contemplating to revive its old Cold War and anti-terror special relationship either. Pakistan must thank its stars, as the special status has been a bad dream for Pakistan since its role as the so-called Non-NATO Ally has always seen the Muslim Nation on the receiving end.
After an unsavoury exchange between fire-breathing Trump and a visibly hurt Pakistan, as the US continues threatening to place Pakistan on the watch list of its Financial Action Task Force for terror financing, Pakistan’s Defence Minister has rightly declared that placing embargo over alleged but unsubstantiated terror financing conduits such as Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ul-Dawa which was in the forefront of social welfare in the country will not be at the whims and fancy of others but in accordance with the Law of the Land. Pakistan is heartened by Chinese support of its anti-terror financing efforts and their opposition to political use of FATF against Pakistan, and Gen Votel concurrently declaring that Pakistan was on course in the right direction in fact indicates acknowledgment against unfounded accusations and apprehensions. But the State Department appears to be working in the opposite direction where after the visit to Pakistan of US President’s Director National Security Liza Curtis, a statement by Principal US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells on the eve of Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua’s visit to Washington that the US saw no sustained change in Pakistan’s behaviour despite its $2 billion security assistance freeze, unfortunately reflects its own ‘behaviour’ as if talking down to its own subjects rather than a Sovereign State.
The silver lining though amid this war of attrition at home and abroad, is hopefully Ashraf Ghani’s recognition of Afghan Taliban as a legitimate political party to the conflict with offer of unconditional dialogue to them, inviting Pakistan to forget the past and turn a new page recognizing that Pakistan was pivotal to peace in Afghanistan and that they needed to work together to achieve it; an equation Pakistan has always sought to strike. This apparent change of hearts signifies Chinese role in bringing home to Afghanistan, to look to each other with confidence rather than suspicion in the spirit of the emerging prospects of CPEC.
It is also encouraging at this juncture to find an American Media delegation visiting Pakistan and meeting Pakistan’s National Security Adviser to develop understanding of ground realities in the region themselves and formulate their own independent views to disseminate back home one hopes in order to clear the mist and misgivings befalling the American people about Pakistan. One ardently hopes that Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua during her parleys with American counterparts, also reinforces Pakistan’s position and hammers home its serious reservations about Indian interference in Pakistan, besides the importance of de-escalation of confrontation in order to bring peace to the region.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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