Ssshhhhhh… we’ve got some dirt !


KARACHI – The Sindh Assembly building is usually spick and span. But all is not sparkling. As has become the norm in our beloved city, inconvenient questions are swept under the carpet for the greater good. Evasion is second only to the policy of reconciliation.
Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Sharjeel Inam Memon, elected to the Sindh Assembly from Tharparkar, is a backbencher. While he serves as the in-charge of PPP’s media cell outside the Assembly, within it he is pressed into service only when the party fears it is under attack.
A firebrand is best used to attack, you see, especially when one needs to keep a coalition partner, or a media mogul, in check. He may raise uncomfortable questions, put the adversary at unease and still appear intellectually honest; in fact, he could do the same job as Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza without being Mirza.
So woe unto the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) – uncomfortable friends of the PPP – when Memon raised a point of order when MQM’s Auqaf minister, Abdul Haseeb Khan, began explaining how the department had leased land in Sukkur to the Health Department for a period of 50 years for the construction of Ghulam Muhammad Mehar Medical College.
Memon’s argument was simple: all state land dealings, even inter-department ones, were the purview of the Revenue Department. Those who decide to sell land on their own, such as when the Karachi Port Trust sold land to the Defence Housing Authority, are committing a criminal offence.
Delivered in his customary charged tone, Memon had both the MQM minister and the PML-Q on the defensive. “The then chief minister approved the lease,” the Auqaf minister said. “He should be tried,” was Memon’s response. Speaker Nisar Khuhro was smart enough to break up the cacophony. After all, the PPP still needs the MQM and the PML-Q, and steer the discussion elsewhere.
Later on, Health Minister Sagheer Ahmed seemed to have composed a reply even before speeches on a resolution urging the government to address the root causes of maternal mortality concluded. Conscious of Memon’s attack, Ahmed argued that responsibility for the cause had to be shared between the federal and provincial governments. He had forgotten that post-18th Amendment, health would purely turn into a provincial subject. The health minister did try to play the angry and agitated young man card, but Khuhro sweet talked him into submission.
Of course Ahmed had to assent; after all, evasion is best reserved for such (reconciliatory) times; Memon had dirt on both the MQM and the PML-F, and slowly everyone seemed to realise it. Check mate.