Casual tribute to constitutional expert from Mianwali

Dr Sher Afgan Niazi had indeed been missing from our political scene for more than 20 months. Still, he deserved significant time and acknowledgement from the National Assembly on the day of his death. The casual and desultory manner some of his old colleagues adopted while talking about his person and contribution sounded almost cruel.

As a struggling reporter in 1985, I had heard about him while visiting Mianwali close to holding of the first general election that Gen Zia allowed after taking over in 1977.

Most villagers fondly mentioned his name and associated him with the now forgotten movement, Baghochi Mohaz, which attempted to check the tyranny of local landlords by picking up arms.

Although inspired by the person and ideology of a Barelvi cleric, Maulana Abdussattar Khan Niazi, this Mohaz (front) of the small and landless peasants had all the appearances of a Maoist kind of rebellion.

After returning to the National Assembly for the first time in 1985, Dr Niazi took no time in grabbing headlines by joining a group of energetic parliamentarians that refused to blindly obey Zia’s dictates. Thanks to his consistent defiance, voters of Mianwali again elected him to the National Assembly 1988.

Although elected on the JUP ticket, Niazi joined Ms Benazir Bhutto’s first government and aggressively conducted the parliamentary business of her first government as federal minister. Until 2002, he remained steadfastly loyal to Ms Bhutto, in spite of the fact that in a highly conservative Mianwali district the PPP hardly had any vote bank.

After holding of election in 2002, though, he developed differences with some of her powerful aides and switched sides. After turning into a supporter of General Musharraf, he also stood by him like a rock and close to his death was extremely frustrated after discovering that the former dictator had no will and courage to wage political battles while down and out of government.

After briefly remembering Dr Niazi, the assembly switched to dispensing with the routine stuff. The regulators of the parliamentary business for the PPP-led government remained confused. Ostensibly, they had summoned the current session of the National Assembly for the explicit purpose of being prepared to elect another prime minister, in case Raja Ashraf were to be disqualified a la Gilani.

After agreeing to write ‘the letter,’ the Raja from Gujar Khan had now protected his job until formation of the interim government that will supervise holding of the next election. Besides furnishing ‘contingency numbers,’ the parliamentary managers also intended to get a newly drafted law to regulate ‘accountability.’ The PML-N opposition is furious with this law, however. It wants the same law to be passed that had been discussed and massively amended in a National Assembly committee for more than three years.

Some parliamentary managers desire that taking advantage of its numerical strength in both houses of parliament, the government should get the new law passed in a bulldozing manner. The doves are suggesting otherwise. In case confusion on this issue continues, this session of the National Assembly can be prorogued after the Friday sitting. The government needs the break anyway; for most of our pious and God-fearing legislators plan to go for Hajj to atone for their private and collective sins.

In ministerial chambers and parliamentary lobbies, most reporters were also seen combing sources to find out the latest on Zardari-Gilani relations.

The former prime minister had been sent home by the Supreme Court for defying its order for writing a letter to the Swiss government. After becoming the first prime minister of this country, who had not been sacked by the military but through a judicial process, Gilani started considering himself a ‘martyr’. He remained too confident in fancying that PPP would flaunt his ‘martyrdom’ to attract votes in next elections and use it to fire up its hardcore base. After inviting him to a residential quarter in the Presidency, Asif Ali Zardari hardly took any time in forgetting him, however.

Then, he allowed Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to humbly submit to the Supreme Court’s direction on ‘the letter.’

Gilani had been feeling cheated and abandoned since then and quietly slipped out of the presidency. The former prime minister had come to Islamabad Wednesday evening for a brief, private, visit. After knowing about his arrival, Prime Minister Ashraf went to him without any protocol and persuaded him to have a meeting with President Zardari.

The reporters were keen to know the ‘next’ after the said meeting.

Yours truly was not pushed, though. We don’t need any Plato for realizing that Gilani is almost a prototype of the conspiracy-driven elite, which turned more deadly if born and grew up in Seraiki Wasaib. Gilanis of this world take centuries to react and journalists must wait.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2012.


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