Nisar’s tirade

Source: Published in Politics on Saturday, September 06, 2014

Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan’s disparaging remarks about Senator Aitzaz Ahsan were completely uncalled for. The hard-fought moment of unity that was to be parliament’s finest hour has now been blemished by the clash of egos.

It could not have been easy for members of the treasury benches, particularly Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his notoriously insular inner circle, to hear the speech with which Mr Ahsan opened the joint session of parliament on Tuesday.

But it would have been to their benefit had they appreciated his words of support, and left the rest for later.

Mr Sharif should know that his conduct and demeanour — and that of his ministers — are under intense public scrutiny at the moment.

People want to know what lessons the PML-N ministers are drawing from this tough test of nerves and will.

If they emerge from this affair a little more humbled, a little more sensitive to the virtues of inclusiveness, and a little more responsive to the needs of the ruled rather than to the prerogatives of the rulers, that in itself would be a promising new start.

The apology proffered by the prime minister to a justifiably annoyed Mr Ahsan for the conduct of his minister was indeed a positive sign.

It showed that he is alive to the perils of the moment. But it was characteristically muted and failed to undo the damage done.

The apology only served to highlight the fact that the prime minister has yet to effectively advise his ministers on the importance of remaining calm and not being provoked by the opposition’s observations and criticism.

After all, a few bruised egos are not too big a price to pay for putting this whole matter to rest.

Unfortunately, Mr Sharif’s government is perceived as cliquish, insular and withdrawn, with a style of governance in which all too often personality trumps policy.

It is about time that the government understood that people are looking for a change in attitudes and performance.

Getting bogged down in a tit-for-tat exchange of allegations and belligerent rhetoric with other political parties precisely when the latter are preparing to rally around parliament and, by extension, the government, fuels the impression that it will be business as usual — or worse — once the dust settles.

Both parties in this battle of egos should let go of the matter, and the prime minister should lead the way in this.

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