ISLAMABAD - Clad in traditional shalwar qameez with a shawl wrapped around his arms, a nationalist leader sitting in the front row of opposition benches in National Assembly appears to be the right-hand man of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and cools tempers of opposition whenever the ruling PML-N is in trouble. The man is no other but Mehmood Khan Achakzai.
On Wednesday, when the joint opposition in National Assembly staged a walkout to protest attack on a female lawmaker of MQM in Lahore, the hometown of Prime Minister Sharif, the ruling PML-N in lower house witnessed yet another day of wrath, as it was already under fire in wake of the deadly clashes between Punjab police and supporters of religious scholar Tahirul Qadri.
The treasury benches had to face the fiery temper of MQM whose fellow party worker and member of the house had narrowly escaped an assassination bid and PML-N members failed to cool the tempers.
Even Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar and Speaker Ayaz Sadiq failed to pacify the situation when MQM’s legislators were almost approaching the treasury benches for a physical fight after one member of PML-N said the MQM was taking political advantage out of the killing attempt on the life of the female lawmaker Tahira Asif.
Sensing that the situation might turn ugly for the ruling party, Achakzai immediately stood up, waving his hand as a gesture to the NA speaker for turning his mike on to speak, and he was immediately granted a chance to talk even though many PML-N stalwarts were waving hands requesting the speaker.
Perhaps Speaker Sadiq knew that only Achakzai can pacify the odd situation and it exactly worked when the nationalist leader asked for observing patience in the house that eventually silenced the angry opposition.
The chief of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) is one of the few lawmakers in National Assembly who owns to his credit maximum presence in sessions of the lower house since PML-N took over as the ruling party.
It was Mashar (leader) Achakzai who recently uttered a need for both Sharifs to be on same page when speculations were ripe about the growing gap between Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Chief General Raheel Sharif.
Despite being members of treasury benches, Achakzai and his party lawmakers sat on opposition benches due to shortage of front row benches in the house, an arrangement that has brought him closer to opposition members in the lower house and he is very much aware of what is being planned by backbenchers against the government.
On Wednesday he sat close to roaring Sheikh Rashid whispering something into his ear when the joint opposition including PPP was spewing venom at Punjab government for failing to maintain law and order in the province.
The 66-year old nationalist leader from Balochistan, whose party is represented by only three lawmakers in the 342-member lower house, is believed to be more a moral support for Premier Sharif than contributing to the parliamentary strength of the ruling party.
During the budget debate, the federal government was centre of criticism in National Assembly for doling out maximum uplift funds to Punjab and ignoring the three smaller provinces, however, Achakzai who has always held Punjab responsible for all the evils, has never uttered anything in this regard.
His elder brother Muhammad Khan Achakzai, who was appointed as governor Balochistan last year, is believed to be the factor behind turning the Pashtun nationalist into a national leader.
He is believed to be a man behind the growing differences between JUI-F chief Maulana Fazal Rehman and PML-N leadership. The religious party is archrival of PkMAP in Pashtun-dominated areas of Balochistan.