As Pakistan hurled from one crisis to another amid speculations about the government itself coming under siege from various quarters, President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday decided to address a joint session of Parliament after Moharram.
In doing so, the President has invoked Article 56 (1) of the Constitution. The announcement from the Presidency said “PPP [Pakistan People's Party] co-chairman President Asif Ali Zardari and supreme commander of the armed forces'' would address members of both Houses of Parliament. At the same time, the President urged party workers to show patience, strictly observe democratic norms and refuse to be provoked into any aggression. “Aggression is the mindset of the weak and not the strong,'' the President's spokesman Farhatullah Babar quoted Mr. Zardari as saying.
In the part-official-part political announcement, the President cited the example of Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi and said: “Democracy calls for tolerance, patience and steadfastness as demonstrated by her in standing up to mountains of hardship for the cause.''
Reacting to the announcement, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar said this move appeared to be part of another gameplan. “We had been told that the joint session would be called to take Parliament into confidence on [the memogate scandal]. Now the government says he will address both Houses. If the government wants to clarify its position, it should explain in the Supreme Court and not with a statement in Parliament.''
On Thursday, Mr. Nisar's party chief and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had filed a case regarding the memogate scandal and the Supreme Court had sought responses from the President, Chief of Army Staff and Director General of Inter Services Intelligence. The Supreme Court's decision to seek responses was described by the PPP as yet another instance of the party being denied justice by the court with the former Law Minister, Babar Awan, referring to the “judicial murder'' of founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
Sunday also saw politics heating up with cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan declaring his assets and asking other politicians to follow suit. His claims were immediately challenged by the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and later Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's son provided a detailed account of his family's assets on live television.