Missed opportunity: PPP silences its Punjabi-speaking Sindhis

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KARACHI – For long, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) raised the slogan “Pakistan Ki Zanjeer, Benazir Benazir.” After her sad and untimely demise, “Pakistan Khappay” was President Asif Ali Zardari’s catchphrase. But with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) seemingly back in the good books of those who really matter, and the party’s subsequent attempts to become a more meaningful opposition, Pakistani politics are turning more provincial by the day. But when the PPP chose a Sindhi-speaking junior MPA to move a privilege motion against Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar, at the Sindh Assembly session on Monday, one thing was clear: PPP had missed a huge opportunity to upstage the PML-N.
MPA Imran Leghari sits on the bench before the last, with Chief Whip Sharjeel Memon in whispering distance. Memon, of course, had belligerently announced a day earlier that a privilege motion would be brought to the Assembly against Chaudhry Nisar’s “disrespectful statements and un-parliamentary language” against Sindh MPAs.
But Leghari’s performance would have shamed Memon: his speech was delivered in Sindhi, but its contents were neither researched nor was the recital one to behold. Poor Leghari stumbled repeatedly as Speaker Nisar Khuhro prompted him to explain the admissibility of his motion, leaving his colleagues to save him from embarrassment. Here was a lesson in not unleashing an untrained MPA at an adversary as versatile and cunning as Chaudhry Nisar.
In close proximity to Leghari sits Saleem Khursheed Khokhar – a Punjabi-speaking Sindhi, also from the PPP. Born in Gujranwala and a permanent resident of Jacobabad, Khokhar has been instrumental in safeguarding the rights of minorities within the Sindh Assembly. On Monday, he waved his privilege motion – also aimed against Chaudhry Nisar – but Speaker Nisar Khuhro didn’t bother. Khokhar stood up later to move a resolution for slain Federal Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, and his two-minute-long chest-thumping speech even had Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza impressed. All and sundry forgot that posthumous nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize are not allowed.
Another of the PPP’s Punjabi-speaking Sindhis, Tariq Masood Arain, now finds himself sidelined because of a dispute over land with a fellow, senior-ranking colleague of the party. Arain had a reputation for being outspoken, but ever since the row, has voluntarily silenced himself. Leghari might be serving an apprenticeship in training, but the PPP clearly missed a trick. Our “symbol of the federation” should have identified their Punjabi-speaking Sindhis to launch their tirade against Chaudhry Nisar. Pitting a Punjabi-speaking Sindhi against a “Punjabi chauvinist” would have sent out a loud and clear message that the PPP is still a party of the federation.
The PPP has always been served well by exploiting emotion, never when it has become emotional itself. Khokhar and Arain’s omission from the privilege motion against Chaudhry Nisar was a missed opportunity – but ultimately, it is one that reflects the shell of bona fide Sindhi-ism that the PPP has now fallen into. Simply put, if Khokhar and Arain are not Sindhi enough for the PPP, it should cease to call itself a party of the federation.