Journalism, they say, mostly creates first drafts of history. If you consider the said dictum, still relevant to chaos-spreading age of digital media, please start reading my notes from the press gallery, from now on, as “chronicle of a death foretold” of “the system” that was introduced in Pakistan way back in 1985.

After ruling this country for eight long years of a really brute martial law, Gen Zia had devised the said system after holding non-party elections that year.

While promoting his approach, he categorically forewarned all stakeholders of the power pie that “the system” he had introduced essentially aimed at “sharing” and not “transferring” power to public representatives. Like a vigilant and stern patriarch he continued to monitor and regulate his rule while sitting in the President House.

Only after three years of bearing with the said “system,” he, however, demolished it in May 1988 by dissolving the government and the national and the provincial assemblies, created through it. His death by a plane crash did not provide him with ample time to conceive and design an alternative to it.

After his death, we reverted to the system introduced in 1985. Thanks to it, successive governments kept coming and being sent home by powerful presidents without completing their constitutional terms.

Eventually, General Musharraf took over in 1999. After three years of a relatively soft martial law, he also restored the same system that had been devised by his predecessor. Although in the end, he could not bear with it either.

After enforcing emergency-plus in 2007, he held fresh elections. People elected through them were just not willing to work with “the system” that had been implanted in 1985. They worked overtime to restore the Constitution, passed in 1973 “with consensus.”

Thanks to their efforts, two governments managed to complete the constitutionally set five-year-terms since 2008. That, at least, furnished the appearances of “democratic continuity and political stability” in Pakistan.

The same appearances also helped placing Imran Khan in the Prime Minister’s Office in August 2018. And most of us sincerely want his government to complete its five-year-term, even if some don’t feel too comfortable or excited about it.

The either/or divide in this country has now turned vicious and vindictive. All stakeholders of “the system,” either from the opposition or the government, have no motivation to reach the proverbial middle ground and stay put there.

Hardly a person among them seems willing to bend even a bit to accommodating “the other.” The national assembly sitting of Friday, for sure, has frighteningly established the insane rigidity driving all of them to the brink.

In all parliaments of the world, the Opposition Leader initiates the general debate on budgetary proposals tabled by a government. Friday was Shehbaz Sharif’s turn to initiate the debate.

 

But the  moment he was given the floor, Dr Shireen Mazari sprang up from her bench to interrupt. Through a “point of (dis)order,” she wanted to find out as to why a mini-desk had been put on Sharif’s desk.

The objection was indeed trivial, but more than six ministers stood up to back her up like cheerleaders. The Speaker, Asad Qaisar, acted deaf and kept asking Shehbaz Sharif to start his speech.

Immediately after his uttering the first line, almost each PTI legislator present in the house initiated the vigorous heckling, with loud shouts of “TT-TT-TT.” It was but obvious that the PTI was adamantly determined to block the flow of the opposition leader with incessant heckling.

To them, this was a legitimate getting-even to the chaos that the combined opposition had triggered and sustained on June 11, when Hammad Azhar, the state minister for revenue, was reading the budget speech.

The shouts of “TT,” of course, referred to “telegram transfers” of millions that the NAB claimed both sons of Shehbaz Sharif had been using to “launder the ill-gotten wealth” and “financing their stunningly thriving businesses” in Pakistan, when their father was ruling Punjab like an iron man.

Asad Qaisar failed to establish order. No minister took him seriously. Even the backbenchers rudely disregarded him and he felt compelled to adjourn the house until 2pm.

While sitting in his chambers, he did try hard to plead for calm and order in the house. Apparently he failed; for, when the house re-assembled, Qasim Suri, the deputy speaker took the presiding chair.

Being a youthful first-timer to an elected house, Suri is an iconic representative of the “corruption-hating” base of the PTI. He is not so keen to act “neutral,” as well.

With half-hearted appeals for calm to the treasury benches, he kept asking the opposition leader to start his speech for around 40 minutes. Often, he passed remarks, explicitly suggesting as if Shehbaz Sharif was not willing or prepared to initiate the general discussion on budgetary proposals.

With sadistic laughter, the treasury benches kept endorsing his taunts.

The PTI also relished the support that it surprisingly got from a solid block of the opposition members to prevent Shehbaz Sharif from delivering his speech.

Led by Maulana Asad, the son and heir of Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI (F), a stubborn group of around ten Maulanas of the religious-right kept demanding the floor to speak.

They wanted to drum the accusation that during his late night address to the nation on June 11, Prime Minister Imran Khan “misinterpreted” some events of early Islamic history.

With an insidious intent, they wanted to incite the religion-driven ire against the prime minister in the name of “correcting history.” Viciously, most of the PML-N members also wanted their leader to allow the JUI (F) group to vent their anger on the floor.

Shehbaz was clearly hesitant to let go of the day, exclusively reserved for him to potentially thrash the first budget of Imran Government with a lengthy speech. But he could not afford annoying or alienating the JUI(F)-led Mullahs either.

Both the PPP and the PML-N desperately need these Mullahs to provide “enraged mobs,” in case they opt for staging Dharnas etc against the Imran government, at least in Islamabad in days to come.

The hesitance and confusion of Shehbaz helped Suri to spin the story that the opposition was a house divided and he adjourned the house until Monday afternoon.

Doing so, he had conveniently “wasted” two full days, Friday and Saturday, which were fixed for general discussion on the budget.

By sustaining chaos in the rest of remaining days of the ongoing assembly session, the PTI appears determined to reach the budget-passing rituals during the culminating days of it.

I certainly fail to imagine an educative, comprehensive and exhaustive debate to fathom the biting sides of the budget that Dr Hafeez Shaikh had prepared to make Pakistan look qualified for getting a bailout package from the IMF by mid-July.

The PTI and its allies are certainly savoring the feeling of “neutralizing” the number-strong opposition, “by adopting the same rowdy tactics our opponents resort to when our leader, (Imran Khan), is present in the House.”

In blind excitement, however, they are forgetting a significant point: someone from the ministerial benches has to “wind up” the general debate on the budget.

Then, the government also needs to get the same budget passed by hopping through multiple procedural ropes of cut motions and clause-by-clause approval through voice vote that can often be challenged for head counts.

Those will surely be the moments the combined opposition is bound to use, or shall I say abuse?, for recklessly getting even to disruptive heckling that Shehbaz Sharif had to endure Friday.