The PML-N members will hate to admit it. Yet the fact remains that their benches in the National Assembly Wednesday conveyed but the feeling of doom and gloom.

The gloomy feeling was obviously triggered by ominous sounding remarks that Chief Justice of Pakistan passed a day before while hearing an appeal filed by NAB against a decision of Islamabad High Court that had suspended jail sentences of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter. Even the diehard devotees of the former prime minister have begun to imagine him going back to Adyala Jail after airing of these remarks. You need to be a reckless optimist to expect otherwise.

Faisal Vawda, the minister of water, took full advantage of their depression while selling the story that “like other resources of the state, Nawaz Sharif had also been stealing water that should have supplied to Sindh and Balochistan.”

Khawaja Asif, who headed the Water Ministry during the government of Nawaz Sharif, was sitting in his bench, when Vawda tossed this accusation. Once known to be an aggressive defender of the PML-N, he preferred to let it pass, though.

Pakistan Peoples Party should have bought the accusation excitedly for spreading the feeling that Nawaz had remained Punjab-centric throughout his political career. They did not walk into the trap. One of their most articulate legislators, Shazia Atta Marri, remained focused on demanding from the minister to show as to how IRSA was supplying water to Sindh and Balochistan, strictly according to the terms set by the Water Accord of 1991.

Ms Marri kept pressing for real time data. Vawda had none. His sole objective on Wednesday was to keep rubbing salt to jittery hearts of the PML-N. Not once but for many times, he kept calling Nawaz Sharif “a compulsive thief” and felt so good and proud for doing this.

Khawaja Saad Rafique, another PML-N hawk equipped with street hardened tactics to silent opponents, was also present in the house. Instead of reacting to Vawda’s fierce attacks, he kept sitting next to Shafqat Mehmud and Dr Shireen Mazari for sharing casual and friendly ‘gup shup’.

Finally, an otherwise soft-spoken Shahid Khaqan Abbasi forced the Speaker to recognise him by standing defiantly for long. After getting the chance to speak, he dared Vawda to substantiate the allegation with solid numbers. “Otherwise, I will also call you a thief and also your father.” Vawda tried to act “well-behaved scion of a respectable family”, instead of furnishing facts.

Notwithstanding the rude remark Abbasi had passed about the person of Faisal Vawda, the former prime minister was correct in telling that the minister of water had tried to sell a dangerous story. It would certainly make the farmers of Sindh and Balochistan to seriously believe that the portion of water allocated to meet their needs was often “stolen by Punjab.” He demanded that a special committee of the house should be formed to check and correct the record.

Qasim Suri is a youthful member of the PTI. He is a first-timer to the National Assembly but presides its proceedings as the Deputy Speaker. Instead of saying yes or no to Abbasi’s demand, he gave the floor to Murad Saeed in haste.

This known hawk of the PTI from Swat delivered a longwinded speech to drum the theme that Nawaz Sharif is a “certified (by the superior court of Pakistan) thief. Not only him, but also his sons, daughter and the son-in-law.” His rude remarks did stir some unease on the PML-N benches. None of them struggled to grab the Speaker’s attention for getting the opportunity to respond.

Meanwhile, Suri had given the floor of Maulana Wasai. This JUI-F member from Balochistan kept babbling on all possible issues under the sun without being checked. This furnished diversion and defused the briefly built tension.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the JUI-F leader, is trying hard to prove himself as the one and only opposition leader, challenging Imran Khan and his government these days. In spite of his efforts, the Maulana representing his party in the National Assembly preferred taking on the opposition Wednesday.

He alleged that by trying to embarrass the government for reaching an agreement with a specific set of “religious leaders” while handling the chaos that shook the country last week, the opposition was “serving its masters in the West.” Both the PML-N and the PPP desperately wanted the PTI government to go for a bloody showdown with “religious forces that happen to be the real defenders of this country and its ideology.”

Without mincing words he profusely praised the “sagacity and wisdom” of some PTI ministers for approaching “our religion-loving leaders” and pacifying them by signing a “wise agreement.”

Mian Shehbaz Sharif had taken his seat meanwhile. His entrance pepped up the PML-N benches, but only for a while. It was too late in the day when Rana Sanaullah got the opportunity to attempt score settling with a relatively toned down speech that did not live up to his reputation of a macho Rajput.

For the past two days, many in the PML-N were telling us that their leader would force the government to explain as to what Pakistan got from China after prime minister’s 5-day visit to that country. No visible effort was made to force the government to speak on this point Wednesday.

Finance Minister Asad Umer dropped in the house for a while and even his brief presence did not stir the opposition benches.

Morale of the PML-N is certainly down since Tuesday. They have lost the hope and are desperately looking for a script to regain some vitality. For the moment, they rather seem adjusting to a long winter of hibernation.

 

A minister without facts, an Opp without sting