For the fourth consecutive sitting a severe pandemonium prevailed in the National Assembly as benches on both sides of the aisle engaged in do or die verbal duels.
And this happened despite an understanding reached between the two sides in the Speaker’s chamber that decorum of the house would be observed by them as they speak out their minds on the Panama Papers imbroglio – at the cost of the entire agenda for the day. This was as if the Panama saga is more crucial to the wellbeing of people than their myriad ordeals their elected representatives are expected to help overcome. But that did not happen. The house, therefore, was criss-crossed by no-holds-barred barbs.
The Opposition wanted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to come to the National Assembly and explain why his statement on the Panama scandal in the house is at variance with the position he took in the Supreme Court. But that was not going to be; the prime minister had wanted the National Assembly to elect him to his present office, and that done he is literally a stranger to the house – as if our National Assembly is the replica American Electoral College which elects the president and becomes history.
To add insult to the injury, not a minister but a junior member in the ruling power hierarchy, Daniyal Aziz, was then on his feet to respond, with equal vehemence, to the scathing attacks of the Opposition. But this man had something new to tell the house and the nation in that the journalists working with International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) who authored the Panama leaks were ‘fake’, and that there was an ‘international conspiracy behind this saga to destabilise Pakistan’. This surely adds to one’s knowledge about the Panama Papers leaks which took the rest of the world by a violent storm also. So, as expected, Daniyal Aziz’s disclosure did not sit well with the Opposition and there was the pandemonium.
Of course, rowdiness in elected houses is now part of the accepted norm in parliamentary democracies. Even some of the otherwise well-honed, productive parliaments occasionally do throw up noisy scenes. But they also sort out difficult day-to-day challenges confronting their electorates by way of holding intensive debates on them. And if required they do legislate new laws to stay abreast with rising new needs of their peoples.
How often our assemblies do that – not very often. Instead of providing the full-house platform for extensive debate and discussion on a bill very often it is passed on to a committee, while the full house would keep itself busy verbal duels. Over the last four sittings of the National Assembly – at an enormous cost to the people of Pakistan – the National Assembly has done nothing except presenting itself as a crude version of Roman arena. But those gladiators offered spectators an example of Rome’s ethics and, in fighting or dying well, they could inspire inspiration and popular acclaim.
Only last month, this poor people of Pakistan raised the salaries of their elected leaders by the tune of Rs 400 million, a 146 percent hike in their wages. Do they really deserve this raise? The whole lot of our elected representatives needs to look into what they actually give back to the people. Given the daunting challenges the country faces today our elected houses are expected to set examples, and shun trivialising the precious gift of democratic dispensation.
Mind you, the elected houses in Pakistan have yet to meaningfully tilt the balance of public perception in their favour as to who should govern them.