Tuesday, April 14, 2009
By Rauf Klasra
ISLAMABAD: In a show of rare defiance, PML-N MNA Ayaz Amir stood up to the otherwise compliant members of his own and other parties in the National Assembly on Monday, probably in the light of open threats by Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) leaders to launch attacks on those who would dare to defy the deal. The MQM also showed some spine.
Ayaz Amir, a liberal intellectual and columnist, was the only parliamentarian to shout, “This agreement was signed under the shadow of guns and most importantly the guns of Taliban had turned out to be more powerful than the guns of our Pakistan Army.”
It was crystal clear that the serious threats of Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan, carried by all the morning newspapers on their front pages, were very much on the minds of all the scared looking parliamentarians. So except for those in favour of the deal, no one from the Punjab or Sindh spoke out.
None of them asked any tough questions from a visibly browbeaten Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who too was seen content with the fast falling writ of the state and his government, as many believed that a new state within the state had been created.
But, Ayaz Amir shined when he took a clear line during the debate, which was opposed to that of Nisar Ali Khan, his party leader in the House. Mr Amir did not have any doubt in his mind that this deal with Taliban would not work when he said: “We should not kid with ourselves.”
The desperate pleas of a genuinely worried Ayaz were, however, of no use, as his parliamentary leader Nisar Ali Khan had already given up in the face of mounting pressure from the supporters of the deal with the Taliban in the Parliament.
That was why, for obvious reasons, Ayaz Amir had little room left to say something more to condemn this deal after Nisar Ali Khan decided to back it. But, even then, left alone from all corners, Ayaz Amir was seen doing his best to criticise those powerful elements who were behind the deal to hand over Swat to the Taliban, which he believed was taken on gun point as Pakistan Army could not match the guns of the militants, or it did not want to.
Without naming Chaudhry Nisar Ali, Ayaz Amir clearly snubbed him, as he raised several valid objections which otherwise should have been raised by his party leader in the house. Only two sane voices were heard in the house of 342. But the most shocking part of these proceedings was that not a single woman parliamentarian stood up to protest the sweeping laws which would greatly affect the women of Swat.
Ayaz recalled the history of Pakistan and said whenever such attempts were made to Islamise the society, they had backfired. He wondered how could we stop the Taliban from controlling the neighboring areas of Swat and gave the example of Buner. He did not have any doubt that the army had failed to take control of the situation and the politicians were now acting from a weaker position after having left with no option.
The MNA from Chakwal, an obvious target for Taliban where they carried out a suicide bombing recently, wondered how Muslims which could not agree on a definition of Shariah in 1400 years, would now achieve this goal in Swat. Ironically Ayaz even paid rich tributes to MQM leader Farooq Sattar for what he believed was a wonderful speech against the deal in Swat.
Another dissident voice came from the MNA of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Sahibzada Fazal Karim who too questioned as to whose Shariah was being implemented in Swat where the followers of all sects resided. “If the Shariah of one sect is being imposed in Swat, we don’t accept it. Who would give us the guarantees of safety and security,” he asked but found no one responding to his loud questions.
All the women, mostly belonging to the elite class of the country sitting in the Parliament conveniently preferred to stay quiet as they did not heed to the warning of MQM leader Farooq Sattar who said a day would soon come when the Taliban would issue a fatwa against the presence of women parliamentarians in the house as, according to them, it was also against their Shariah.
It was being widely expected that some protest by the women parliamentarians would be registered and the most relevant question from PM Gilani about how the rights of women would be protected in Swat Valley, would be asked. But it was not.
Just two weeks ago, a horrible video had shocked the whole world when a poor girl of 17 years was flogged. None of the 80 female MPs representing different political parties raised the issue, as if they had not seen the video. Liberal PPP MNAs Sherry Rehman and Fauzia Wahab, who had been championing the cause of human and women rights during the long 12 years of opposition, were also found avoiding eye contact with anyone who may ask them why they were tightlipped.
Unlike expectations, Opposition Leader Nisar Ali Khan did not waste time, after playing to the gallery in his famous style of anti-American speech. Nisar knew that his speech against the Americans would help him divert the issue from Swat deal and its implications.
Interestingly Nisar was seen irritated by the story of The News on Monday titled, “Zardari throws the Taliban deal in Nawaz camp” as he loudly referred to it during his speech. “One of our friend (journalist) today has written that now the ball was in PML-N court as the president acted very smartly to ask the Parliament to approve this deal instead of singing it on his own,” he recalled, and then said: “Let me tell everybody that we are ready to share the responsibility.”
He blasted the PPP and said it was not the time to play politics, as he turned his guns towards US Defence Secretary Roberts Gates instead of evaluating the peace deal being struck with the Taliban before asking the house to immediately approve the deal.
PML-Q leader Riaz Pirzada asked who would give guarantees that after this deal, peace would return to the area and militancy would not spread. But PM Gilani remained quiet on this important question, giving an impression that he was given the task to get the deal through Parliament instead of applying his own mind about the future implications as pointed out by some MNAs.