SMQ turns war against corona into a war against PPP
The ongoing sessions of the Senate and the National Assembly have been convened to exclusively discuss the disastrous situation created by Covid-19 and work out a joint government-opposition strategy to stem the menace.
However, speeches made by leaders on both sides of the aisle are reflective of their belligerent attitudes, as a result of which the hopes for a well-coordinated effort needed against the fast-spreading disease have been shattered.
The speeches made by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi in the two houses show as if the federal government has launched an attack against the Sindh government, led by the rival PPP.
In the Senate, for example, he said: Be warned (or get ready), we are going to take over Sindh as well. We’ll establish our writ there as we did in Punjab.
Sindh, the foreign minister said, is ours. The PTI and the MQM enjoy the majority in the provincial capital. The PPP has no right to claim its monopoly there.
A day before, the foreign minister had said the government is ready to share the table with the opposition to find a solution to Covid-19 calamity.
The crisis, he emphasized, can be resolved through national consensus. This is not the time for sabre-rattling. This is a calamity the like of which was seen never before. It’s a national challenge, needing a collective response, the minister stressed.
While the minister was seeking cooption from the opposition, he in the same breath called the PPP as a party which, unlike its past character of the federal entity, had degenerated into one laced with provincial prejudices.
PPP Chairman Bilawal came up with an equally potent attack, calling for the foreign minister to step down.
(This demand was as unfair as provocative was the foreign minister’s speeches).
The final result of the two sessions, for which the nation has to pay the legislators millions of rupees in allowances, will be seen in the times ahead. But the contradictory tone of his speeches in the two houses has fully exposed the country’s head of the foreign ministry.
Nobody should forget that the foreign minister represents the country at the international level and articulates policies at all fora. He is supposed to be articulate, capable of encapsulating tough messages in diplomatic language. He should be very careful in the choice of words so that only that message is conveyed to the other party which was intended.
It is because of the sensitivity of this role that almost all diplomats, even the most experienced ones, read from the written texts despite being masters of the language. (It is bad luck that in our country even the prime minister prefers to deliver extempore speeches, regardless of the delicacy of the subjects he deals with).
The argument made above means that while the government needed opposition’s cooperation, the foreign minister announced a war against the PPP government. There is no denying the fact that the PTI has the right to set up its government in Sindh just like the PPP and the PML-N have the right to try to form their own government, separately or jointly, at the centre.
Was this the right moment for the foreign minister to make a fiery speech against the PPP? Should it be assumed that his style of diplomacy at the international level is also similar?
The feeling of pain multiplies when one recalls that Mr Qureshi is among the few senior and experienced leaders of the ruling PTI. He comes from a well-known political family. His father was the Punjab governor.
After his father, FMQ is also the custodian of a spiritual seat in Multan, which has a large number of followers in various parts of the country. And as a spiritual leader, he is supposed to know the art of winning the hearts and minds of even those who hate him.
When the country’s chief diplomat is simultaneously wearing the mantle of a spiritual leader, he should have extra sweet words for his addressees.
But his performance in the Senate and the National Assembly shows he has failed to come up to people’s expectations.