These days, much conscientious rumination is emanating from the floor of the parliament. Swansongs are being transformed into a litany of half-truths, choreographing only one side of the story. This can be misleading and dangerous.
Farhatullah Babar chose the occasion to unleash a vicious tirade against virtually all institutions except the one whose floor he was speaking from. He was contemptuous of the judiciary and held out a warning against “judicialisation of politics and politicisation of judiciary”.
He also warned against a “state within the state” and the “helplessness of the parliament in arresting the downslide”.
He had issues with the courts brandishing the contempt laws instead of the force of arguments and warned of a possible backlash in case the election year became a year of referendum on the judiciary.
Raza Rabbani, the outgoing Chairman of the senate, was not happy either over the “growing judicial meddling in legislative processes”. He cited the limited time that he had as the reason for not pursuing it further with the Chief Justice.
Aitzaz Ahsan hip-hopped his own swansong. He fully endorsed Farhatullah Babar’s comments regarding the alleged judicial incursions into parliamentary domain and went on to advise the army not to indulge in adventurism.
But, he also cautioned the parliament that the rule of staying within the constitutional limits also applied to it.
May I also dare ask them why they did not speak when the former prime minister lied on the floor of the parliament? Was a resolution moved in condemnation of that? I would not have cared whether or not the resolution was carried, but simply moving it would have brought the parliament immense moral stature which is so integral to establishing and strengthening its credibility and legitimacy
In order to sound even-handed, and also win some political mileage, he criticised those who were attacking the superior judiciary in speeches and rallies, thus creating space for a dictator to overthrow the democratic set-up. Terming the recent strike by the Punjab bureaucracy as “treason”, he said that the judiciary was dealing with these people with a soft hand.
Three swansongs, three intended indictments!
May I dare ask these gentlemen what has rendered the parliament helpless, and why? What Damocles’ sword is hanging over its head that it can’t perform its job? Or, is it because of the grave failings of the ones who sit there, like the speakers themselves that the institution has come to this depraved pass? And why is it that they developed a pricking conscience barely a few days before quitting their posts as senators?
More importantly, is it that democracy has been reduced to mere sloganeering with the ones occupying positions of power, and those extending unqualified support to their shenanigans, suffering from an acute despotic syndrome?
The proof of my contention is there to be seen. Farhatullah Babar was summarily removed as spokesperson of the PPP co-chairperson while Raza Rabbani was publicly ridiculed by his party leadership as a possible contender for the post of Chairman, Senate.
Referring to judicial activism as incursion into parliamentary domain is erroneous. Parliament has left a gaping space because of its blatant complicity with a band of criminals who come in wearing various spots to hide both their disreputable intent and dictatorial mindset.
Leaving everything else aside, passing of person-specific amendment allowing a disqualified individual to assume the charge of a political party’s president deprived the parliament of every shred of moral stature that it may have been left with. Instead of taking a position against crime and its perpetrators, it passed legislation legitimising their wrongdoings. Why were the three gentlemen silent while they sat as members of the very same parliament?
May I also dare ask them why they did not speak when the former prime minister lied on the floor of the parliament? Was a resolution moved in condemnation of that? I would not have cared whether or not the resolution was carried, but simply moving it would have brought the parliament immense moral stature which is so integral to establishing and strengthening its credibility and legitimacy.
They are not the only gentlemen who have been guilty of this dereliction. Virtually all members, who are supposedly the custodians of the constitution and the rule of law, have worked to the detriment of these virtues. Notwithstanding the excessive righteousness of the swansongs, this crass failure on their part is a stigma on their faces, and those of others who sit as members of the parliament, which is not likely to be washed away easily.
Legitimacy is not demanded. It is established through a sustained and arduous process of doing only what is right and within the constitutional parameters. Demanding of others to abide by the constitution without first showing your own commitment to the book of statutes is like hiding behind the mirror that you are trying to show to others. It doesn’t work that way.
The road to redemption starts by first looking at the base camps — the political parties that the parliamentarians are members of. The punishments meted out to Farhatullah Babar and Raza Rabbani, though distinctly different in nature, are symptomatic of the despotic culture which is the root-cause of the weakening of democracy in the country. Name me one political party which has conducted transparent intra-party elections within its ranks, or raised voice against the institution of family oligarchies, or the rampant corruption of their leaders. Without that happening, and with political parties remaining hostage to the schematic manipulations of their oligarchs, how can they preach democracy in the country, or complain of it becoming any weaker? They are the cause of the ills of democracy, not the judiciary or other institutions which only move in to fill the space created by (absence of) governance which these so-called corruption-riddled ‘democrats’ have systematically engineered in the country.
Let the institutions be freed of the executive’s tentacles and let them function independently in a transparent, accountable and effective manner. And stop cribbing about those institutions which have already begun to do so. Judiciary, in spite of a tarnished past, is doing a fine job that has been long overdue.
Let the parliament grow teeth that would bite — teeth of moral stature and respect for the rule of law. Let it stand as a check on those who insist on pushing their stinking personal agendas at the cost of the state and its institutions. Let it hold all those who are its members accountable to the very highest principles of transparency. Let it endorse no alleged criminal as the head of a political party or any other state institution designated to ensure allegiance to the constitution and all laws emanating from there.
There can be no genuine democracy in the country without first bringing democracy to the political parties. Let this parliament legislate to make this a reality. Let there be no offenders to this principled basis for participating in politics so that democratic culture could flourish.
We’ll then see the face of the country change in days.
The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute — an Islamabad-based think tank. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @RaoofHasan
Published in Daily Times, March 13th 2018.