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Empowering the parliament

Senator Rehman Malik

Except at the time of formulating the constitution or the 18th amendment, which is also hanging at present as bone of contention between Federation and provinces, the parliament has never acted effectively in the larger interest of the public.

It rather created space for the manipulation of elections, disfiguring its democratic face and took no action against paid or selected parliamentarians. If we enlist legislation for public welfare or justice dispensation, it shows failure. It is now hostage to the vested interests of a few families and is run by electables. It is continuously drifting to the wrong side of history by failing in providing legislation for a “requisite social justice system”. It even failed to bring legislation for police reforms. Old colonial laws are still part of the legal system.

There has been no proper review so far by successive parliaments to improve our governance and it looks more like a game between the government and opposition using the “give and take” formula to serve respective political ends by ignoring the interest of the common man. We need to review the parliamentary framework/rules of business for the national assembly, the senate and the provincial assemblies for a more public-friendly and result-oriented outcome from our parliament.

It has become a common national question as to why our parliament has become ineffective when even the upper house I.e. The Senate has the same powers as the NA to have the right of say in all budgetary proposals. The senate can give recommendations only. The parliament can play its active role to implement the rule of law and improve governance. The people of Pakistan are worried as our beloved country is passing through the worst crisis and the nation is witnessing political polarisation and bad governance within the institutions.

The parliament is failing to deliver and this parliament may go in history as a rubber stamp with hardly any initiative for the betterment of a common man. The state is in a state of utter confusion and the country is direction-less without adequate policies. The people need hope whereas the national future has been mortgaged before the IMF. Many present ministers are of the view on record that the government is helpless before mighty IMF and the west including FATF. Individual interests have taken over national interests in our present system. The country is being run on a day-to-day basis without solid long-term policies.

The state is utterly failing to protect the rights of a common man. Crises are on the increase with every passing day. The common man was expecting some relief for a long time but every successive government failed to come to their minimum expectations.

The present ruling party had actually unrealistically raised the hopes of the public which were not possible due to a deteriorating economy, yet the people were made to believe in the bed of roses and built high hopes; they have seen their high hopes crushed. The parliament is meant to demonstrate more political maturity with a pragmatic and result-oriented approach for the sake of the country. This continued confusion, ineffective parliament and non-serious government might bring some serious and irreversible setbacks to the country.

We all have to think about how to set a doable path to steer the nation out of this crisis with national unity. The economy is sliding down with no sign of recovery, Foreign policy is already suffering because of our international isolation, the IMF and FATF are pushing us to be defaulters. The FATF hammer will continue to be used against us where both Afghan and Pak Taliban have joined hands and their nefarious activities against Pakistan are increasing and they are contributing in the hybrid war against Pakistan duly engineered by India and the west through Afghan soil.

Can this be discussed in the Parliament? The removal of the fence from the Pak-Afghan border shows the future intent of the Afghan Taliban and TTP. The ongoing disturbance/uprising in Tajikistan and Ukraine may lead to further issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan which must be discussed in the parliament with reference to our foreign policy. While we are facing numerous internal and external challenges, the government seems to be confused and undecided.

The government is not coming up with an economic recovery plan and foreign policy to overcome the likely future setbacks. It must act wisely and should bring proposed plans before the parliament and ask for collective national wisdom on national policies. The failure of our successive policies can be well judged from the data given below as we have not acted to correct our various public domains. The Poverty rate has increased from 4.4 percent in 2018 to 39.2 percent till now; an undesirable increase and we are leading in South Asia for our poverty rate. The parliament must take up this increase in poverty rate seriously—ration card schemes or langar khanas can not feed the increasing number of growing hungry public. Bangladesh has become the role model of economic growth and its textile industries have grabbed the world market. Its poverty rate has gone down. It will be shocking to know for the public that the investment and expertise have flown from Pakistan to Bangladesh as the investors from Pakistan found Bangladesh more investor friendly compared to Pakistan. Why? Similarly large-scale investment has flown to Sri Lanka as well. Will the government ever order a study to identify the current and previous government’s mistakes and adopt a proper control system to halt this deteriorating situation by at least not repeating those mistakes again, which are creating negative statistical trends in our important national sectors?

In fact some of the economic and administrative indicators show the inability of our past and present governments. We need to think seriously if the present system is a problem itself or if we are incompetent. We must also study some other viable way of governance. It is unfortunate that our authorities and political pundits either do not understand the meaning of a borrowed economy or deliberately prefer to adopt the easy path of loans to run governmental affairs, which has brought us to the present deep crisis.

The state of confusion is widespread across the country due to incompetency, inability, non-nationalistic-approach, non-serious attitudes, no accountability and the immature attitude of the government and oppositions in the parliament. Why has the parliament not yet made legislation on price control? Why has the price commission not been empowered till today for stringent legal actions? It is unfortunate to note that nations do not survive with lip service and borrowed money; we need practical steps to give relief to the common man.

We are very good in blame games on each other which is equally applicable on the government and opposition leaders. The joint sessions during the present term of parliamentarians have failed to come up with some relief. These sessions gave no benefit to the common man in terms of law or policies except TA/DAs for the parliamentarians and benefits to FATF and the IMF. These joint sessions ended by passing some pre-written resolutions manipulated behind the scenes whereas the parliamentarians were not free to express their views during these joint sessions. A question arises; why are the defined democratic norms not being observed in parliament and who is responsible to mute the voice of Parliament? It has muted its voice on major national issues and no one but the parliament is responsible for it.

The way forward for effective governance and the solution to resolve the crises is to proceed with the collective wisdom of the parliament, the government and other relevant stakeholders. The era of false egos should be buried and a new era of shared responsibility must prevail—political parties should worry about Pakistan and not increase their vote bank with false hopes and promises. We need to work for Pakistan, nothing but Pakistan, to save it from the international vultures. Make the parliament effective to bring the rule of law and accountability according to the constitution of Pakistan.

Senator Rehman Malik

The writer is former Interior Minister of Pakistan, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Chairman of Think Tank “Global Eye”. He is the author of four books and his fifth book is about to get published. He can be reached at:, Twitter