The rallying round of the opposition and the government benches to reinvent the code of conduct for the parliamentarians was a forward looking development that may be followed through to culmination without the slightest consideration of second thought. It was the dire need in the background of what had been going on at the floor of the House in the recent past. The realisation should have come a bit earlier to save the country from the befallen ignominy due to the ugly images flashed in the local and international media of the parliamentarians getting to each other’s throat.
The images depicting Opposition and the government members up in the arms against each other were embarrassing, and were also casting aspersions on the lawmakers and our democratic dispensation to our collective chagrin. Hopefully, the irritatingly quarrelsome members will realise the necessity and urgency of mending their unbecoming ways for creating an enabling environment in the House.
Their transition for the better may expunge the past mistakes notwithstanding of their appalling proportion in all forms and manifestations.
Arguably, if such privileged and elected representatives are helpless in observing discipline in the House then who will inspire the people out there to become responsible and law abiding citizens. Parliamentarians are expected to be role model and exemplars of democratic culture instead of like a herd of unbridled wild entities. The Speaker of the House, as a last resort, may use his authority sparingly but decisively and effectively at times against those members who are known as compulsive troublemakers.
They may face the certainty, if not severity, of the consequences of the violation of the parliamentary code of conduct. A framework of deterrence in the making may surely prevent them from crossing the red lines. Ideally, the need of the promulgation of such code of conduct should have not arisen in the first place if the members had conducted themselves with requisite grace and dignity compatible to their coveted representative status.
Who will disagree with the reverberating reality that the country has been teetering on the edge of the looming crisis and yet the lawmaker’s highly invective language during the House business was both shocking and deplorable that may not be countenanced by any stretch of imagination.
The honourable members are required to discuss the important national issues threadbare in the Parliament-- like establishment of the badly hurt writ of the state, price hike, economic issues etc. -- with required competence and seriousness to seek out the solutions of the complex governance conundrums aimed at providing relief to the people on sustainable basis.
It may be pointed out that Chairman Bilawal Bhutto could not speak on the important subjects at the floor of the House on the day because of the shrilling furor there, and he had to rely on his press talks outside the Parliament building. Undoubtedly, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the senior parliamentarians of the respective parties to rein in their zealots lawmakers while keeping at the foremost the promotion and strengthening of the democratic culture both inside and outside the House.
In the absence of the adherence to the parliamentary discipline, the inevitability of prohibitive price of their omissions and commissions may not be evaded. The (TLP)’s recent blitz on the state and its institutions during three days may be enough to shake the better sense of the lawmakers of treasury benches in particular to rise to the occasion instead of indulging in trivial distractions.
Co-Chairman of PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, has struck the right cord when he commented on the mishandling of the recent protests by the government through the instrument of five-point agreement, a sort of NRO with ‘Maulvis’ implying total and abject surrender of the government. No (NRO) ‘whatsoever’ with PPP or with PML (N), according to the co-chairman, but the same has been underwritten by the incumbent government with the (TLP) despite their full throttled bad-mouthing against the state institutions in full glare of media.
The perception of cowing down of the government before the religious bigots stood vindicated when the contents of the agreement were made public. The government had been playing to the gallery since then and their boasting to establish the writ of the state looked hallow allegorical to beating the bushes. Government seemed in a mode of appeasement without realising that such strategy was a sure prelude to the cascade of such heart-wrenching nightmares. The agreement with (TLP) was concluded with knife on the neck of the government that might not lead to establish the writ of the government because it could not be anything but a capitulation. The full-throated expression of unflinching commitment by Minister of State Shehryar Afridi on the floor of the Senate to bring the culprits to justice was nothing but equivalent to trembling and inconsequential roar. Wish time my not prove so.
There are reports in the media that the government’s functionaries hurriedly held a meeting with the leadership of the (TLP) that had threatened to give another call to its workers to protest against the non-implementation of the five-point agreement that included putting Aasia Bibi’s name on the ECL and release of their workers. Fearing another round of protest, the government reportedly freed a large number of detainees by articulating that they did not belong to the (TLP) as identified by its leadership.
Who would take this argument that the saboteurs were from the main political parties, as maintained by the government circles, who infiltrated to create mayhem in the country and not the (TLP) workers? This projection is rude joke that is totally devoid of truth. How come the government believed in what the (TLP) said and disowned the law enforcement agencies’ assertions.
This capitulation after boasting by the mandarins to establish the writ of the state at any cost was sheer pusillanimous of the party and its government. The government should have firmly stood its ground on the side of the equation of the rule of law. How can the government keep Aasia Bibi under detention when she was acquitted by the highest court of the country? That question still awaits plausible explanation of the government.
The lingering ambivalent of PTI government is getting on the nerves of the people mired with poignant frustration. Its failing to take action against the miscreants for ravaging havoc to the public and private properties during the three days countrywide TLP’s protests is indeed sending out the message of officials’ appeasement to the horror of all. The apex court adjudicated that Aasia Bibi was not guilty of blasphemy and hence stood exonerated honourably.
The TLP refused to accept the judgment and instead gave call to its workers to protest against the decision that brought the normal life in the country to a grinding halt. They targeted the private cars, buses and inflicted billions of rupees losses to the highways and the motorway according to official accounts. Who is responsible for huge losses? Surely they were neither the workers of PPP nor of the PML-N.
The TLP leadership hurled naked threats to the political leadership that, according to them, were accomplices in Aasia Bibi’s acquittal and therefore deserved to be dealt with accordingly as abettors in the crime. They also asked the army rank and file to stand up their leadership and send them packing to the final abode.
The instigation to violence and targeting the state institutions by the TLP leadership may be non-compoundable offences warranting that justice should be done no matter what. Dithering in facing the challenges head on may surely embolden the same forces rear their ugly head in future as well. The state and its institutions’ backtracking under the apprehension of avoiding bloodshed may be flawed strategy wrought with multiple dangers. Dr Shireen Mazari, PTI federal minister, made a valid observation buttressed with historical facts, ‘appeasement had always led to more bloodshed’. It explicitly implied that government’s appeasement would increase their popularity and ferocity after this surrender. So, the fanatics should be confronted and defeated before they become invincible force.
Government’s commitment as per the agreement to put the exonerated person on ECL was odd as it did not hold any moral, legal and natural justice moorings in the absence of the court order to the effect. Instead, the government was guilty of not releasing Aasia Bibi after the apex court’s judgment. The Supreme Court may take notice of it and issue instructions to the government to implement the judgment in letter and spirit. The government’s reluctance not to free Aasia Bibi may tantamount to disregarding the narrative of rule of law.
No state can be worthy of its existence without the sovereign authority exercised through its arms -- executive, judiciary and legislature —- to create ironclad conditions necessary for protecting the lives and properties of its citizens. Any pressure group or individuals stopping the government functionaries in the undertaking of their responsibilities shall be held responsible and made to face the legal consequences.
The government of the day may take cue from this and walk the talk without taking into account any other consideration as no consideration is more important than the protection of the lives and properties of its citizens.