Later in this column, I have to explain as to why the bedlam, witnessed in the Senate Friday, conveyed a far more ominous message to me than the gloomy embarrassment that Rana Sanaullah had enforced upon his colleagues while delivering a passionate speech during the national assembly proceedings of the same day.

Don’t blame the parliamentary reporters, however, for feeling too excited about his speech. Multiple clips of its video recording would certainly go viral on social media and ratings-starved anchors are bound to discuss “the consequences” of it in their shows on 24/7 networks.

His speech was important, also for the fact that it motivated not less than five members of the national assembly from the treasury benches to loudly express sympathy for him.

Around six months ago, this high profile leader of the PML-N from Faisalabad, equally admired and hated by friends and foes for straight talking, had apparently produced the sensational “breaking news.” He was travelling to Lahore from his hometown via motorway. His vehicle was stopped and checked at a point by personnel deputed to monitor drug trafficking. We were made to believe that a huge quantity of high quality and pricey “stuff” had been “recovered” from his possession.

Drug peddling is considered a heinous crime in Pakistan; it invokes death penalty and people charged for it seldom get released on bail.

Rana Sanaullah surely conveys the feel of a rustic “Don” about him. But even his ardent haters refused to believe that he could afford to act so audacious, while being so prominent among the PML-N ranks, the PTI government seemed obsessed to fix for whatever reasons these days. Rana Sanaullah still needs to prove his innocence in trial court, however.

After many months of enduring soul breaking and reputation demolishing agony, he eventually got released on bail, granted by the Lahore High Court. The judgment, enabling his release, also put serious questions over the manner he was arrested and prosecuted. For legitimate reasons, Rana Sanaullah yet not feels vindicated by his release on bail.

Through the speech, he delivered in the national assembly Friday he kept forcefully demanding that a Commission, representing both the houses of our parliament, should deeply probe the story of his arrest. He also claimed to have been “tortured and humiliated,” while being kept in solitary confinement for six months.

He had been sent straight to jail immediately after the arrest. Rana kept claiming that “not for once,” during his months in custody, any investigator approached him with questions duly required to prepare a fault-free charge sheet against the person arrested for allegedly committing the heinous crime of drug peddling. “Doesn’t this clearly show that I was arrested and humiliated, only to teach a lesson?” he kept wondering with a visibly hurt heart.

Asad Qaisar, the Speaker of the national assembly, seemed somewhat willing to accommodate his plea for the probe by a parliamentary commission. He asked him to put his demand for it, “in writing.” He also promised to forward his request to the Senate Chairman to appropriately move on the matter.

The Speaker felt forced to act accommodating, also for the fact that the treasury benches heard the passionate speech of Rana Sanaullah in embarrassed-looking silence. From the treasury benches, Sadaqat Abbassi, remained the one and only, who tried to interrupt him by occasionally shouting that Rana Sanaullah should prove his innocence before the trial court.

From the same government benches, however, Sanaullah Mastikhel, Khalid Magsi, Aslam Bhotani, Iqbal Siddiqui and Ms. Saira Banno loudly expressed sympathetic solidarity with Rana Sanaullah. Four of them represented various parties and groups that help sustaining the Imran government with their support. The government can’t take them lightly.

Murad Saeed, the youthful communication minister, still preferred to rush to the house for spinning the counter-narrative. He started by pushing the Speaker to a defensive corner by arrogantly wondering as to why Rana Sanaullah was allowed to deliver a lengthy speech on a matter that fell in exclusive domain of the trial court. Then he moved on the contemptuously recall the “reputation” of Rana Sanaullah. But the damage, as they say, had been done and even the self-appointed mother hen of the PTI government, Murad Saeed, miserably failed to spin a convincing counter story.

In the upper house of parliament, many senators who consistently support the PTI government originally triggered the bedlam. Cutting across the party divide, almost each senator from Baluchistan left their seats to stage a picket before the presiding dais. They were furious that Omar Ayub Khan had not come to the house to promise alleviating initiatives for addressing the serious issue of gas shortage, all across Baluchistan.

The crippling shortage of gas in the same province indeed sounded painfully scandalous, if you care recalling that in popular parlance the natural gas is called “Sui Gas” in Pakistan; for the reason that this resource was first discovered at a place called “Sui” in Baluchistan. After many decades of supplying it to millions of households all across the country, Baluchistan’s reservoirs are now fast heading to near-depletion.

In the acute winter of this year, the gas shortage has literally crippled the everyday life in Baluchistan. But the government does not seem too worried about it. The Senate Chairman, Sadiq Sanjrani, felt helpless for controlling the protesting senators. He rather kept reminding them that even in his hometown, Chaghi, the gas shortage is acute and punitive. He had to summon the Minister of Energy to prevent more agitation.

Soon, we had to hear stories that even Sindh was experiencing a traumatic shortage of gas supply in spite of producing 70 per cent of this resource, when you consider the overall national production.

Sherry Rehman of the PPP took the lead in speaking for Sindh through a calling-attention notice. Ms. Sassi Palejo, another PPP senator, fiercely supported her. Both of them kept passionately quoting Article 158 of our Constitution. It firmly states that residents of the province have the first right to use the natural resources it produces.

Ms. Rehman kept accusing the government for deliberately adopting a policy that wanted the consumers in Sindh to switch to buying cylinders to provide fuel to their household needs, instead of relying upon the gas supplied through pipelines. A unit of the cylinder-based gas costs double than a unit of the gas made available by the pipelines.

To regulate the supply of gas and fix the price of it, we have an “autonomous body” called OGRA. Ms. Rehman kept wailing that Sindh had no effective representation in this body.

Ostensibly to address the issue of gas shortage, the Prime Minister had summoned an emergency-looking meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) on December 23 last year. The minutes of the said meeting had yet not been put on the official record and distributed among the stakeholders.

Both the PPP senators continued to assert that the federal government appeared treating the Sindh and its residents like the abandoned and forgotten siblings. This treatment could prove ominous for the country, where the South –Sindh and Baluchistan- had begun feeling marginalized by the North.

Omar Ayub Khan, the Minister of Engery, did not care to express any assuaging words after taking the floor in the Senate. Too arrogant, he rather sounded by audaciously asserting that the crippling shortage of gas in Sindh and Baluchistan these days was, in effect, the end product of “bad governance” that the PML-N and the PPP brought and perpetuated in this country from 2008 to 2018.

Doing this, he conveniently forgot that only 23 per cent of households in Sindh get their gas through pipelines. An overwhelming majority of these households remain in Karachi, the most populace city of Pakistan, which had voted for the PTI, almost in droves during the election of July 2018. The PTI ministers can’t alleviate the present day pain of their “vote bank,” by only blaming the previous governments.

The federal government exclusively deals with the provision of gas and fixing the price of it. The PTI had taken the command and control of it, way back in August 2018. And during the previous winter, we already had endured the crippling shortage of gas. The federal government surely had ample time to prevent the repeat of the crisis this year, but it recklessly failed to move even an inch on this matter of crucial public importance.