Who and where? | Pakistan Today

Who and where?

The opposition wants the PM

The opposition has laid out its terms for the briefing on the National Action Plan: it must be in Parliament and by the Prime Minister. It has stayed away from what was on offer, a briefing by the Foreign Minister at the Foreign Office, not of all members, but just of leaders of the parliamentary parties. There is a certain validity to this demand, which has been made in the shape of a letter replying to the Prime Minister, because the National Action Plan itself comprises more than giving military courts jurisdiction over terrorist offences. By making Parliament the venue of such a briefing, an opportunity would be afforded to members to weigh in on the efficacy of those courts. More importantly, it would provide an opportunity to examine the fulfilment of the reason for giving the military courts jurisdiction. Military courts were to be used to allow civilian judicial reforms. While examining NAP, it would be valid to find out what the present government is doing about this.

Insisting that the Prime Minister do the briefing is not just an opportunity to be rude, as the incumbent seems to think, but because no one has the authority he does. Asking Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi to do the job may mean that he will not commit his government to something not agreed on, whereas Mr Khan would be able to do so. Besides, the Interior Ministry is the lead ministry on this matter, and has been retained by Mr Khan for himself, placing a minister of state in charge for its day-to-day affairs. That makes him the lead minister on the topic. Would he himself tolerate a minister who tried to shuffle off a task to some other minister?

As for the danger of bad behaviour by the opposition, there is no question that it must follow parliamentary norms. However, Mr Khan should not forget that parliamentary norms afford a wide latitude, and preclude the kind of reverence given to office-bearers like himself outside the House. The epitome of parliamentary success is to turn the laugh on the other side, not to sulk like an angry child or refuse to do one’s duty. And by showing that he cares, he is only letting the opposition see that its tactics are working.