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November 18, 2019

Whiff of fresh air?


November 18, 2019

After all, the self-righteousness and its alacrity for foisting have given in to the dynamics of the parliamentary politics sadly only after pushing the whole political system to the brink of abyss. Now the treasury benches have reportedly decided to take U-turn from the brink to create an enabling environment in the Parliament that has been reduced to a dormant forum. The prime minister has amazingly constituted the committee consisting leading elected members of PTI to channelise the epiphany to improve the environment in the Parliament by pro-actively engaging the Opposition benches. Whiff of fresh air indeed.

It was pleasant surprise for the people of Pakistan in general and the Opposition parties in particular after knowing the government has decided to jettison its reckless policy of reviling the Parliament and instead to become the robust part of it.

The dawning of late realisation should have been earlier to evade the political polarisation that has overtaken the political landscape of the country, unfortunately. Better than never. It was doubly pleasant that the government has also decided to withdraw all the ordinances recently bulldozed in the Parliament with a view to evolve consensus, announced Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, at the floor of the House last week. The media reports suggest that the government has actually withdrawn the ordinances as per understanding with the Opposition. So far so good.

It is indeed amazing in the otherwise prevailing mugginess of parliamentary business where democratic practices have been subjected to apathy of grotesque proportion by those who may have been giving air to the sails of the democracy.

The Opposition has welcomed the move and reciprocated by announcing the withdrawal of the no-confidence motion against the Deputy Speaker Suri under whose chair the ordinances were carried hastily in the House.

The Chair did not allow the Opposition to participate in the debate. Hopefully, the government may continue the best democratic practices as stated because without this the country may remain struck in the swamp of political instability with forlorn hope of overcoming the challenges facing the country. Pakistani people have suffered hugely at the hands of the foolhardiness of the ruling party during the political season spread over more than a year. They deserve better deal after being made to suffer through the sea of troubles.

It may be recalled the Opposition parties after the 2018 elections handed out an offer to the PTI in favour of parliamentary politics instead of politics of agitation. In this regard, PPP leadership role was commendable that got other political forces convinced to the indispensability of the politics within the Parliament. PPP leadership brought the PML-N home on parliamentary politics because its explicit prognosis would surely underwrite the continuity of the system no matter how fragile that might be.

The PTI leadership instead of reciprocating the sincere offer of the Opposition ran amok and unleashed the witch-hunting of the Opposition leaders by putting them behind bars under the pretext of so-called accountability that had become joke because of its discriminatory nature. The perception is now well entrenched. So much so, the apex court’s observation in the recent past on the underway process of accountability has broken the back of the fairness of the accountability process. It is being perceived as tool of victimisation against the political opponents. It may hurt more to the oppressors than the victims at the end of the day. ‘Whom the gods destroy make mad.’ Make no mistake.

It may be recalled the one of the ordinances to be promulgated was the National Accountability (amendment) Ordinance (2019). Its contours clearly suggested rancor endeavours destined for the naked political victimisation of the political opponents by the ruling party. It was surely imbued with the mala fide to inflict the ultimate humiliation on them by putting them with common prisoners facing the allegations of corruption. It shall be applicable against the accused no matter what the court decides later on. Was it not kick in the face of the due process of law and the judiciary not withstanding its crass mismatch with the imperatives of human rights? The apparent reinforcement of the validity of the doctrine, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The maxim ‘one is innocent until proven guilty’ is the bed-rock of the administration of justice. Mandarins were surely wittingly oblivious of the fundamentals of the dispensation of justice that accepted of not convicting an innocent person even if few guilty might go unpunished. It seemed absolute power was serving as an intoxicant on them affecting their sense of proportion, fairness and common sense beyond recognition. The introduction of such draconian laws in the past had invariably proved the proverbial truth: what goes round and round comes around with prohibitive cost. The latest amendment in the ordinance might have proved it as the worst kind of National Accountability Ordinance. The promulgation of the amendment could have strengthened the growing perception of the underway accountability as a tool of brazen political victimisation. The apex court recently underscored the importance of taking remedial measures to rectify the “growing perception of political engineering and political victimisation”. Ironically, the observation of the Supreme Court seemingly had triggered the opposite reaction in the form of new ordinance. Thank God, the better sense has prevailed upon the government that has decided to withdraw all the ordinances including the worst one, National Accountability (amendment) Ordinance (2019). Time will tell if the fire in the belly for political victimisation has been squarely extinguished.

The PTI leadership is advised to take leaf from the experience of the parliamentary history of the PPP government led by Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani. It was one of the shining examples of the success of parliamentary politics. The bringing about the historic amendments and legislations -- with political consensus -- was enthralling those could have not been imagined when the PPP did not have majority in the National Assembly. The PTI also lacks majority in the Parliament but may repeat the success story if it emulates the PPP template of parliamentary politics. To fresh the memory, it may be stated the PPP managed the enactment of the historic 18th Amendment in the Constitution with consensus, removing all the aberrations of the dictators and restoring the 1973 Constitution, was a mega parliamentary achievement by any stretch of imagination. It also resolved the long standing issue of provincial autonomy thus strengthening the federation against the alacrities of the status-quo forces. The denial of the provincial autonomy during the traumatic past had inflicted unimaginative national humiliation including irreparable losses to the territorial integrity of the country. The 18th Amendment may be judged in the context of military dictators’ hurtful legacies those had wrecked cascade of havocs on the country’s solidarity in perpetuity.

The issue of Pakhtunistan was also resolved through the Parliament during the same period when frontier province was given the identity of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The 7th National Finance Award was yet another momentous achievement of the then PPP government that managed to give financial autonomy to the federating units with consensus. The PPP government also granted special status to GB that was landmark reforms because it made the people the real stakeholders. The exceptional feather in the cap of the PPP government was that 98% out of 130 bills presented in the Parliament carried the political consensus right across.

No wonder that the PTI government could not move forward in its drive of undoing the 18th Amendment after testing the strong reaction of the people throughout the country. The people of Pakistan indeed have taken the ownership of the 18th Amendment. They will surely stand guard to frustrate the bidding of the status-quo forces those feel enormous ache in their hearts.

On the contrary, the parliamentary history of the incumbent government is embarrassing enough to equate with abysmal parliamentary record. It seemingly never tried to improve its parliamentary credit and rather kept on treading on the trajectory of unparliamentary practices those smack of despotic relics. The inordinate delay in the formation of the various parliamentary committees was reflective of the ruling party’s scant regard for Parliament and the legislative business.

The PTI leadership might have not braced the Azadi March of the scale the people of this country have witnessed in Islamabad lately if it had sincerely adopted the parliamentary politics at the outset. The PTI obsession with get-it–alone approach is clearly against the dynamics of functioning democracy that considers Opposition as an equal and important part of the dispensation. There is no denial of the fact that the formation of the government without Opposition is possible but running the government without the Opposition is just not possible. This simple prudence remained alien for the PTI leadership not to speak of practicing it. The challenges facing the country demand political unity in the country to overcome these challenges of grave nature posing existential threat. Without the political cohesion the government’s energies will be wasted in the futile exercise of firefighting and getting nowhere and rather inviting denunciation from all directions. Wisdom may guide the incorrigible leadership. But the fear of too little too late remains there as lot of waters have already flown under the bridge.

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