Our elected representatives
Dr S. M. Taha

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
The News


In his speech at Oxford on June 14, 1957, former British prime minister, Clement Attlee, commented on democracy in these words: ‘Democracy means government by discussion but it is only effective if you can stop people talking’. There is wisdom in these words for our elected representatives who speak pointlessly and too much. They keep bragging about things which nobody knows or understands. The people of Pakistan are tired of their senseless discussions on talk shows and on the assemblies’ floors.
For those who believe our leading politicians are incapable of feeling embarrassed, there was an embarrassing confirmation last month when our prime minister responded to questions of a CNN interviewer. The prime minister seemed nervous and his voice faltered as he answered the questions thrown at him. Some say it was nervousness, others believe it was the problem of language comprehension. Whatever the reasons, he blurted out some really strange things.
But the PM is not the only politician to have made strange statements; the list of our elected representatives who made absurd comments at some point in their careers is a long one.
For instance, soon after taking the oath of office, President Asif Zardari, while responding to a question asked at a media gathering in India through videoconferencing, said: ‘I assure you Pakistan would not take the lead in a nuclear strike.’ The audience laughed when, at the same occasion, he said, ‘I will send my ISI chief to India with reference to Bombay attack’. Similarly, in a television interview, when the anchorperson raised the issue of disintegration of state institutions, President Zardari kept saying ‘in your eyes, in your eyes’.
When Senior Federal Minister Amin Fahim was questioned by the FIA about a certain amount of money in his bank account, in the NICL scam investigation, he said, ‘I don’t know how this amount was transferred into my account.’ ‘I have a dream,’ said Sindh’s former home minister Manzoor Wasan; ‘We killed Rehman Balooch,’ claimed Zulfikar Mirza and so on.
Disappointingly, Aitzaz Ahsan’s name is also on the list. While pleading judicial leniency before the court, he argued that the prime minister was a sajjada nasheen. A large numbers of MNAs and MPAs, I am sure, would not be able to spell the word ‘sovereignty’, let alone understand its meaning and essence. Recall Raja Riaz’s speech in the Punjab Assembly: “...three Js have damaged this country: journalist, judges and (j)enerals’. Poor Riaz didn’t know the word general starts with the letter ‘g’ not ‘j’. Recall Firdaus Ashiq Awan’s conversation with Kashmala Tariq on a talk show...that was obscene.
Let’s move from the statements to the visions of our elected representatives. Few of them realise that they are legislatures and their prime responsibility is to legislate, not construct bridges, pave roads and install street lights. They could not even resolve the five major national problems in four years. Whenever a problem turned into a crisis, they opted for short-term measures to pacify the angry masses. They happen to be parliamentarians only because of their privileged position in society. Otherwise they are neither democratic nor parliamentarian in their attitude, mindset and conduct.
Academically, they might have graduated from good national and international universities. But a degree can’t guarantee enlightenment. One has to keep abreast of new researches in economics, political science, sociology, law and public policy and this can be done through extensive reading. It is embarrassing to compare the resume of President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani with those of their counterparts in other countries.
Their speech clearly indicates their below-average intelligence level. Their understanding of democracy, social justice, rule of law and sustainable development etc is pathetically low. Their concerns are restricted to simple calculations – how much they spend in election, how much they can recover, what are the financial and political gains of important portfolios, how to get closer to the top leadership, and how to increase their bargaining position.
The most dangerous trend that has appeared in these four years is that the leaders have become insensitive to their honour, integrity and responsibility. When they are accused of any crime or malpractice, they barefacedly say, ok well, the courts are independent now, if you have any problem go to the courts....’ In other words, who cares?
Are they the true representatives of the people of their respective constituencies? The fact of the matter is that there is a complete disconnect between voters and representatives. Democratic correlation is rarely found between the masses and the leaders. What an irony that labours are represented by industrialists; farmers are represented by feudal lords and reserved seats are filled by friends and family members.
These representatives are least concerned about their constituencies; most of them do not even live there. People only aspire for good governance, irrespective of systems. Incompetent and good-for-nothing ruling elite have no will and vision to run the state in an efficient manner. Our leaders have tarnished the relationship between state and its citizens.
That’s why our confidence in democracy is shaken. The people of Pakistan are now ready to welcome a new system that provides social justice, employment opportunities, law and order, economic growth and political stability.
The writer teaches public policy and politics at the University of Karachi. Email: tahaku@ yahoo.com

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Volume 3, No. 1
Issue: June 2012
   Center for Policy Research & Institutional Development
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