Parliamentary sovereignty: A beacon of light amid gloom
Amidst a myriad of terrifying political and economic problems like terrorism, energy shortages and centrifugal tendencies confronting Pakistan today, there is a silver lining across the horizon—landmark steps taken towards restoring and strengthening parliamentary sovereignty.
Back- to- back constitutional amendments in recent years are termed as significant steps towards restoring to the parliament its rightful place as the pivot around which the dream of national integration could be made a reality, says a cross section of opinion leaders. They pointed out that prevailing economic conditions were due to the world economic meltdown with signs lately emerging of a global recovery while on the political side, Pakistan was trying to cope as best as it could from the fallout of the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan and simultaneously fighting terrorism at home.
As the current parliament lives out its mandatory life in the next week or so, it can look back with a sense of achievement at the passage of 18th, 19th and 20th amendments.
As representatives of a country inhabited by diverse ethnic, regional and religious groups, the parliamentarians can well and truly speak for the aspirations of a pluralistic society. Former federal minister and an eminent jurist, Dr. Baber Awan, says the current parliament had performed well in strengthening the bonds of national cohesion and integration as parliamentarians from far corners of the country, representing a tapestry of races, languages and cultures, raised issues of their particular constituencies on the parliamentary platform.
Dr. Baber Awan listed three priorities which, he said, were essential for achieving national integration by the elected parliament. These priorities, he said, were 1) to give a legal roadmap in accordance with the aspirations of the people, 2) to lay down principles of policy for the socio-economic action and 3) to give hope to the masses for the future.
The current bicameral parliament, comprising 342-seat National Assembly and 102-member Senate, is the ninth legislature brought into being under the 1973 Constitution. In the interregnum between 1978 and 2008, the military dictators, Messrs Muhammad Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf, tinkered with the unanimously- adopted 1973 Constitution, both manipulating amendments, which disfigured it almost beyond recognition.
“Though the Pakistani parliament has yet to go a long way in asserting its full authority, the constitutional amendments, 18th to 20th, can be looked at with a sense of pride by the outgoing parliament”, says former Senator Safdar Abbasi. PML-N leader Khwaja Muhammad Asif said it was “incumbent upon the voters to sift right from the wrong in a bid to elect really worthy candidates to the parliament”. It may be recalled that the 18th Amendment was passed by parliament to offset the devastating fallout of the Eighth Amendment inserted in the constitution at the behest of late dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq.