Wits and ideas give way to fists and blows
The first budget session for this fiscal will undoubtedly go down in the history of parliamentary affairs of the country as one of the most hotly contested ones. However, its standout moments were not clashes of wits and ideas, rather the exchange of fists and blows between the opposition and treasury benches.
The brawl had started when Capt (retired) Safdar along with other PML-N lawmakers wanted to breach the security cordon, which the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) legislators had formed around Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
It was the young Zafar Iqbal Warraich from Rahim Yar Khan, who literally took the fight to opposition benches, and quite a sight it turned out to see him and PPP’s Akhunzada Chattan pitched against Capt (retired) Safdar and Malik Abrar.
The scenes from the scuffle in fact rang a bell with fans of late Sultan Rahi films: clad in a shalwar kameez and sporting a moustache, Mr. Warraich swiftly landed a few punches on the face of Capt (retired) Safdar, who happens to be the son-in-law of Nawaz Sharif. Back in their territory, and supported by Mr Abrar and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Mr. Safdar in turn thrashed Mr. Warraich and tore his waistcoat.
Though saner elements from both the sides managed to break up the fighting lawmakers, the alleys of the Parliament House are still abuzz with gossip about the aftermath.
According to one account, as soon as the budget session ended, Mr. Warraich called his hometown for re-enforcements – apparently he did not want to walk in front of his opponents outside the limits of the Parliament without supporters.
Eye witnesses claim that since then, a number of his supporters have travelled from Rahim Yar Khan to Islamabad, and can be seen crowding at his residence at the Parliament Lodges. Many of them were even issued passes to accompany him in the Parliament House.
A source within the PPP added that Mr. Warraich had been counseled by the senior party leadership to avoid any direct confrontation with the opposition lawmakers.
“I hope no untoward episode occurs, because it will only add to our (politicians) bad image that is the talk of the town since the June 1 incident,” a senior PPP leader said, who preferred not to be quoted.
A similar line of pacification is being towed by the opposition as its members have been advised to avoid a run-in with Mr. Warraich’s men.
The PML-N since the conviction of the prime minister on April 26 with contempt charges has refused to accept him as lawful public office-holder, and hence, whenever he comes to the house they invariably start raising slogans against him.
Talking to Dawn, a source said that given the increasing rivalry between the PPP and PML-N, legislators from both the parties including Khurshid Shah of the PPP and Ishaq Dar of the PML-N were working overtime to diffuse this tension.
As per the argument of a senior government official who advises the government on parliamentary affairs, this is not the first time when a tiff within the Parliament between lawmakers has led to their personal enmity outside its premises.
During the earlier part of this sitting assembly, Khawaja Asif of the PML-N had to face the wrath of a PPP female lawmaker whom he addressed as a “stranger in the house”. “Reportedly, her husband along with his armed guards stormed Mr. Khawaja’s lodge and made him apologise for his remarks,” recalled the official. “It was simply a crude way of settling one’s personal scores and had nothing to do with the Parliament or for that matter democracy.”
Deploring the fact that Pakistani politicians are still following their clannish tendencies, the official argued since most part of the country’s history there had been dictatorships, who deliberately encouraged such rivalries for their vested interests, would take time to go away. Segmentation of the society on ethnicity, sectarian and regional lines has been the hallmark of successive military dictators.
However, he added: “I am of the firm belief that given the chance, Pakistani lawmakers can prove themselves better democrats than those in any other developing or developed countries of the world.”
Moreover, he said, fist-fights among opposition and treasury lawmakers was commonplace even in many developed countries, but they didn’t take their brawls to their personal lives outside the parliament. One can hope things will also improve in Pakistan, too.