En bloc resignations from elected houses as a pressure tactic is not something very unusual in parliamentary history, but its frequency as witnessed in Pakistan is certainly a matter of concern.
Last August, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf members resigned their seats and remained absent from the National Assembly for nearly a year. And now it is the turn of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), whose members have resigned their seats from both the houses of parliament and Sindh Assembly.
The PTI is now back in the National Assembly, nursing its folly of de-enfranchising its electorates for full one year. The MQM resignations are not being accepted also, a situation that is going to cause more harm to the party’s internal unity and its political future than to anyone else.
In both the cases the presiding officers of the assemblies would have been in their constitutional right to accept the resignations on the spot – for, the relevant provision in the Constitution brooks no such liberty on the part of the presiding officers as being exercised now and before.
Article 64 mandates that “a member of parliament may by writing under his hand addressed to the Speaker or, as the case may be, the Chairman, resign his seat, and thereupon his seat shall become vacant”. The same is applicable in case of resignations from seats in the provincial assemblies.
But the Nawaz Sharif government, committed as it is to its concept of national reconciliation, would like to take the advantage of the precedent set by allowing the PTI to return to the National Assembly, and a decision of Sindh High Court in 1992 to convince the MQM to retract its decision to resign from assemblies.
It is reluctant to accept these MQM resignations as it was in case of PTI resignations. After consultations with his aides and other political parties in parliament – minus PTI and Jamaat-i-Islami – he has tasked Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mehmud Khan Achakzai to persuade MQM leadership to come back. Even if the MQM refuses to return and perseveres in its state of denial its resignations are not being accepted.
That is a state of animated suspension for Altaf Hussain and his men on the ground entailing grave risks of splintering up.
Brinkmanship entails risk. Altaf Hussain seems to have played his last card, and lost the game of pressure tactics. The question whether or not he will accept it as a fait accompli or ask his workers to take to the street has lost much of its significance because he has almost arrived at the precipice of self-destruction. With Rangers now in control of Karachi and shutter-downs and wheel-jams no longer a norm, the only option left with the MQM is fighting off political challenges through parliamentary politics.
How and why the MQM decided to resign en bloc from the elected houses, still remains a mystery. But now that it has resigned the party has got to bear its consequences. Nawaz Sharif may be anything but there are no doubts about his political priorities.
Even before he met other leaders of parliamentary parties the information minister was on stage to warn in no uncertain terms that resignations and Rangers’ operation in Karachi are two separate issues; and they have to be handled independent of each other and at different forums. While the former can be discussed at the political forum there can be no compromise on the latter. That perfectly puts paid the Altaf Hussain’s offer, that should the government address the MQM ‘reservations’ about the Rangers’ operation the resignations would be withdrawn. The last weapon in Altaf Hussain’s quiver has been shot. But having said this one would still say that the game is not yet over.
Altaf Hussain has the required capacity to play another round and that is of ensuring that peace and tranquility, which is now tip-toeing back into the mega city, is protected and preserved although the incidence of street crimes is seeking, albeit meekly, to raise its ugly head.
He may also like to give a new orientation to his speeches some of which tend to portray him as enemy agent to his detractors and are too hard to digest even by his most committed followers. ‘The deluge after me’ is not, one hopes, Altaf Hussain’s ultimate game plan.
Source: Business Recorder