The parliament or the politicians?
Now it is the turn of the parliament for the PTI’s (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) ire. Taking a cue from their leader Imran Khan’s fiery speech at the maverick cleric Allama Tahir ul Qadri’s moot at Lahore declaring, “mein parliament par laanat bhejta hoon” (I curse the parliament as a useless body) the PTI MNAs went berserk in the National Assembly on Friday.
Perhaps the Khan – a perennially angry and tormented soul – was irked and surprised at the lacklustre one-day dharna to protest against the lack of progress on the Baqir Najfi report demanding the resignation of the entire government. The crowds simply did not show up in large numbers to hear the laments of a motley collection of politicians on the stage.
Of course Zardari and Imran came in shifts rather than be seen together on the stage. But none of them – Qadri inclusive – failed to make any waves.
Maybe the people were not in the mood for gyrating hysteria of the Allama and would rather wait for the election process that is due to start in a matter of weeks.
Also it is indeed ironical that mainstream politicians like Imran and Zardari should need the coattails of a person who being a Canadian passport holder is not even qualified to contest elections in Pakistan. It seems as if his only quality as a rebel-rouser speaking in double entrants is to create mass hysteria amongst his followers.
If the parliament has not come up to their expectations they are as much part of the problem as its solution
It is understandable for the PPP to try to find a foothold in the Punjab after its dismal performance in the 2013 elections. Despite several half-hearted attempts it has not been able to regain lost ground. But certainly the enigmatic cleric is not the answer to its travails.
The PPP and the PTI must have felt that their show in Lahore would impact upon the people as well as the powers that be and pave the way for Shahbaz Sharif’s exit as Chief Minister of the province.
Obviously a good showing in Punjab – the jewel in the crown – is axiomatic to form a government at the centre. But this did not happen on Wednesday.
Ironically the politics of body bags has overtaken the desire for a straight fight. Imran despite admittedly being the biggest crowd puller and having no skeletons in his cupboard betrays a certain lack of confidence in his own electoral abilities. Why else would he rely upon demagogues, charlatans and rabble-rousers like Qadri and Sheikh Rashid to up the ante?
The case of the PPP is even more curious. Mr Zardari despite his disdain for the Sharifs unlike the Khan many a times has reiterated his commitment to democracy vowing not to oust the government through any unconstitutional means.
If so what was he doing sharing the podium with those who abuse him 24/7 and refuse to even shake hands with him. Undoubtedly the PPP co-chairperson prides himself for being a master tactician, but his present Punjab strategy hardly makes any sense.
Thankfully the PPP refrained from cursing the parliament. But so far as the PTI chief is concerned his castigating of his ever-increasing list of opponents in the harshest of terms continues unabated.
The parliament is not a monolithic entity. The 36 members of the National Assembly belonging to the PTI are its integral part.
Hence when its member hurls abuses at it they are damning themselves in the process. Conversely, the PTI members including its chief continue to receive allowances and airline tickets as per their entitlement from the laanti (cursed) National Assembly.
If the parliament has not come up to their expectations they are as much part of the problem as its solution.
The ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the other hand, continues his tirade against the apex court judges. But there is a rump of opinion even in his own party including his brother who do not approve of his outbursts.
Nevertheless Sharif claims that the apex court has wronged him, and hence is justified in his criticism. But where has the National Assembly – where every member is equal – gone wrong to incur the wrath of the PTI wallas?
Admittedly the National Assembly as well as the provincial assemblies has failed to live up to their potential. Both the former Prime Minister Sharif and Imran Khan hardly attend its sessions.
Even ministers and the rest of the treasury benches are rarely present in the House. The leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah many a times has lamented about the lack of quorum. The House rarely in quorum, usually conducts business without it being pointed out.
Although democracy and democratic institutions have progressed tremendously since its inception in 2008 the parliament has performed much below par. It is unfortunately become a means for the majority to pocket funds in the name of development.
The PPP government from 2008 to 2013 during its tenure enacted some structural constitutional changes in order to make the system more federally democratic and parliamentary with the active participation of the parliamentary opposition. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani unlike Sharif was a regular attendee equally accessible to the opposition.
However Sharif during his four-year tenure maintained a regal style. Even on rare occasions he attended the National Assembly he remained somewhat aloof not only from the opposition members but from his own party MNAs as well. Even ministers were brushed aside casually.
Unsurprisingly in this ethos being elected to the parliament is seen by most politicians more as means of attaining power and amassing funds in the name of development. This is not to suggest that the MNAs do not conduct development works in their constituencies and simply pocket the funds.
But under a parliamentary dispensation development work is the job of the local bodies’ members. Ever since dictator General Zia-ul-Haq introduced the partyless system disbursing development funds has remained the mainstay of the legislators. In the process, legislation and parliamentary debate (their job description) comes much lower in the order of priorities.
However, despite the warts there is no better system than the federal parliamentary democratic system for Pakistan. And time and again it has been proved beyond a shadow of doubt that even a flawed democratic system is better than a military dictatorship or a presidential system. But unfortunately, instead of reforming it through dialogue and consensus politicians are just continuously squabbling.
The Khan and his stalwarts need to do some introspection. True, the system is rotten to the core.
But apart from bashing the Sharifs and the Bhuttos what institutional reforms virtually in every field including governance, transparency, foreign and security policy the PTI has on the cards? Nobody knows.