The sad state of politicians,politics and parliament

The sad state of politicians,politics and parliament

Democracy is the charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing equality to equals and unequal alike — Plato

A local sage has responded to my last column in a perceptive way. His focus was on the part of my write-up where I lamented the general nonchalance of our parliamentarians. Public representatives in any democratic dispensation are expected to demonstrate maturity, insight and proper understanding of the protocol that warrants decent behaviour in the conduct of parliamentary business.

Eloquence and lucidity in their speeches and statements may be a bit too much to ask for. Some of them excel at hurling expletives. If asked why they use such foul language, they ascribe it to the Punjab’s culture. Indecent remarks are passed against one another with impunity. No wonder, TV channels have been urged to run a disclaimer before showing parliamentary proceedings, that only adults should watch these.

Among parliamentarians of note Aitezaz Ahsan speaks well but is no longer electable. Raza Rabbani talks sense but even within his party, he seems to have run out of relevance. In the ruling party Asad Umar and Murad Saeed are among the exceptions on account of the requisite clarity and insight.

Effective communication is a big challenge for most of the assembly members. It has been estimated that 70 percent of them don’t open their mouth even once in a five year term. To make a speech with an impact, one must have a penchant for reading. The sage says they don’t read “a book, any paper or any bill” put up for vote.

The three-time prime minister has allegedly not read a single book from cover to cover. I wonder what we wanted to achieve in electing such an appalling specimen of mediocrity. He is obviously not an exception. Our political scene is replete with such characters.

For several decades now, not a single speech has been made that can be called sufficiently inspirational or intuitive to give the Pakistani literati some confidence. Quaid-i-Azam, while in London, made it a point to attend the House of Commons debates. This proved good training in the art of making an effective speech. Reading his speeches, compiled by Prof Rafiq Afzal, will do a lot of good to our parliamentarians. Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone, and later Winston Churchill are known for their parliamentary speeches.

But then these people constantly worked on themselves to tower above their contemporaries. Jawaharlal Nehru, John Kennedy, Fidel Castro, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto are a few examples of eloquent speaking, which may serve as a template for our parliamentarians.

The current breed of Pakistani politicians looks like some characters from a mythological tale. A discourse analysis of the speeches made on the floor of the assembly is certainly a pertinent theme of inquiry for the students of politics.

By and large, the world saw greater stability under monarchy, a system that lasted for almost 5,000 years. Democracy seems to be in crisis within 100 years of its universal acceptance.

Thomas Hobbes says, “democracy is no more than an aristocracy of orators.” But the state of democracy in Pakistan precludes oratory altogether. Our parliament is muffled with dullness attributable mostly to a wasteland.

The dismal attendance record of the elected representatives is even more alarming. The party in power and the prime minister skip sessions as if going to the assembly is not worth their while. This may be because the opposition targets him and alludes to him in un-parliamentary language. However, he must not shirk from participating in the parliamentary debate. Being absent from assembly sessions does not reflect well on his image as a leader.

Parliament, the institution that is the kernel of democracy, has been treated with marked insouciance. Given such a demeanour, the expectation of a democratic ethos taking root in Pakistan’s political landscape amounts to asking for the impossible. If it is not too much to ask for, every party should be obligated to educate its cadres from the union councils upward. They must be properly instructed in constitution, law, foreign policy and economy.

Laying down the ethical standards is equally important. A revered academic with a degree from an Ivy League rated medieval monarchy as a much better system than the contemporary incarnation of democracy, which has turned into electoral autocracy, anchored by mafia-like networks.

One argument he presented was about the training and the level of sophistication of monarchs. Prospective kings were tutored, trained and groomed by the best minds available. They had a life full of privilege but they were expected to shoulder the strenuous burden of responsibility.

Obviously, there were some comic figures too. But by and large, the world saw greater stability under monarchy, a system that lasted for almost 5,000 years. Democracy seems to be in crisis within 100 years of its universal acceptance.

Many analysts contend now that democracy is a form of government where a leader is chosen by popularity and not by the ability to run a country. That is what undermines democracies in the post-colonial world. Singaporean and Chinese models have mounted a big challenge to Western democracy, which is no surprise to many.

In some quarters of Pakistani intelligentsia, a streak of cynicism is quite evident. It has plausible causality. When politics becomes devoid of altruism and it is reduced to a mere business, despondency is bound to set in among the people. Anti-democratic rants of people like Mr Hassan Nisar during his interview to Paras Aurangzeb should be put into a proper context before furnishing any response. Many people like him have seen politics having been used as a tool for self-aggrandisement. Umpteen stories are told of rags-to-riches for which the shortest of short cuts had been politics.

Cynicism against politics is bound to follow if democracy, or any other system, becomes a way of serving narrow self-interest and state, people and their problems don’t seem to matter.

The sad state of politicians,politics and parliament