By Shahjahan Khurram
Time and again our parliament has proven to be a rubber-stamp institution that has catered to the desires of the elite instead of passing legislations for the welfare of millions. And that is exactly what happened on November 21, 2017 when the ruling party and its allies were able to bulldoze a proposed bill by opposition lawmakers that would have barred a disqualified person from leading a political party.
The ineffable nepotism that is rampant in the parliament of Pakistan paints a picture of apathy and disappointment. By legally seeing to it that the disgraced former Prime Minister can hold the reins of the ruling party, our honourable MNAs (those belonging to the ruling party and their allies) have spelt it out for all to read—that they would defy the ruling of the apex court to appease a certain individual of considerable influence and political clout.
PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi was pleasantly surprised to see the National Assembly housing so many MNAs on the day when the bill was to be passed or rejected. Shouldn’t this further boil our blood (of course when I say ‘our’ I’m referring to the common Pakistani taxpayer) as we elected these representatives to draft and pass legislation on the various grave issues that our society faces yet they have the nerve to show up ONLY when the party Presidentship of Nawaz Sharif is at stake?
Where was PTI Chairman Imran Khan on such an important occasion? Is he not a Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan? Will attending a session of the parliament bruise his ego or dent his pride? Was Khan’s vote not important regarding the bill albeit the fact that the ruling party already had the numbers to reject the bill? When will the PTI chief start implementing on the basic norms of democracy that he expects the world to follow excluding him?
After Shah Mehmood Qureshi had slammed the government it was time for Khawaja Saad Rafique to get up and make his presence felt. His impassioned speech laced with references to uphold democracy and do away with the ‘minus’ formulas may have been potent as far as taunting his political rivals is concerned but certainly lacked genuinity and logic.
“God forbid what I’m saying comes true but we do not want to minus anyone from politics,” roared the federal minister for railways. “Because when a huge political leader falls victim to the ‘minus-one’ formula, then democracy itself will also be a victim of the same formula,” he roared. Thunderous applause, as expected, followed.
I’m sure these words rang hollow in the ears of those familiar with PML-N’s politics of the 80s and 90s when ‘minusing’ their opponents was all they did. Let us not forget how they went to the courts putting democracy at danger to instigate trouble for the then-PPP government during the Memogate scandal. Or when, according to allegations penned by the wife of former ISI operative Khalid Khawaja, Nawaz Sharif received funding from none other than Osama bin Laden to contest elections against Benazir.
They say history repeats itself and it did so just yesterday. Bad news is usually followed by good news and vice versa. However, this time around, there’s only bad news and no good one. The point is, folks, if you wish to have legislators debate, deliberate and deliver on important issues concerning the masses, we’ll always face a quorum issue.
But if Nawaz Sharif wants to head PML-N even after being found ineligible to hold public office by the highest court in the country, our MNAs will certainly show up in huge numbers and ‘do the right thing’. So long as the parliament remains to function as a bulwark of the Sharifs instead of a place where the problems of the downtrodden are addressed, we’ll continue to make fools of ourselves on the international stage.
Story first published: 22nd November 2017