PTV newsnight on referendum

The viewers have seen with a sense of disgust the television talk of Mr. Iqbal Hyder a prominent member of the Pakistan Peoples Party and a former Federal Minister with PTV anchorperson Mr. Talat Hussain in Newsnight on Friday 12th April. In reply to a question Mr. Iqbal Hyder has tried to defend the position of Benazir Bhutto as legally elected life Chairperson of PPP. When asked whether there is any example of a life President of a political party anywhere in the world, he was evasive but tried to justify with plea of being on the will of the people. Mr. Talat Hussain did not press his question for want of time. Now through these columns I want to ask Mr. Iqbal Hyder, would it be democratic if the members of PPP elect a set of Central Executive Committee members for life. Is this the essence of democracy? By electing Benazir Bhutto as life Chairperson, the members present in that meeting have violated the constitution of the PPP, which provides for the election of the Chairman and office bearer periodically. By electing Benazir Bhutto as a life Chairperson the members present in that meeting have usurped the rights of the members to come in the next annual general meeting to elect their office bearers. I hope that Mr. Iqbal Hyder remembers being an old politician that when one of the members of the working committee of the All India Muslim League proposed Quaid-e-Azam to be the life President of All India Muslim League, the Quaid constitutionalist as he was, snubbed the proposer and said ” Let me come to you every year for your votes and submit before the Working Committee and General Council the performance of All India Muslim League for the year ending.”

So far as the will of the people is concerned the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments brought about by Nawaz Sharif is a glaring example of the impotent will of the impotent members of the Parliament. The thirteenth amendment bill was moved into both the houses of Parliament, the National Assembly and the Senate on 11th April 1997 in Nawaz Sharif’s second term in office. The rules of procedure were suspended and the bill was passed unanimously by both the houses the same day without any debate what to talk of any objection from any member of the parliament asking explanation to the urgency of the matter and suspension of rules of procedure. Fourteenth amendment act came into force on 4th July 1997, this amendment was aimed at not putting an end to lucrative defections. But lotaism only existed because all our political parties were patronizing buying and selling bodies. However that could not satisfy the ego of our rulers and our Prime Minister had to be further empowered, and with bulldozing of 14th amendment so he was. Surely this is not the essence of democracy, while democracy is a form of government of the people, for the people, and by the people, the essence of democracy is that one can fool some people for all the time and one can fool all the people for some time but all the people can not be fooled for all the time. Is this democracy and if you ask the members individually, have they voted with their free will, when they pass an amendment 14th in the constitution and scuttle their authority in order to provide dictatorial powers to the Prime Minister only for some little gain here and some little gain there, or for the fear of the wrath of the state machinery in the hands of the Prime Minister.

Thank God, 15th amendment could not go through which would have made Nawaz Sharif Ameerul Momineen answerable neither to the parliament, nor to the nation and not to the country but only to God with whom only the Prime Minister would have been in communication. This amendment could have turned his position in the hierarchy of Pakistan much higher than the President himself. What a travesty of the constitution, and the will of the people. This could only be termed as democracy in Pakistani style ridding on the crest of Islam.

We may like it or not, United States President General George Washington set an example by including in the American constitution a clause that the President of United States will not be elected for more then two consecutive terms, the idea of life presidentship is abhorring to the American nation. Howsoever powerful and indispensable the President may appear to be. It was during the 2nd World War that President Roosevelt was elected for the 3rd term, which he could not complete and died and the two-term presidency was restored.

Mr. Iqbal Hyder would be better advised to inculcate democracy in his own party before talking of democratic institutions in Pakistan. The political parties are dynasties of the Chairman of the party; this facet of the political structure is glaringly visible in PPP. Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was succeeded by his wife, who was ousted by her own daughter as is done by Middle Eastern Kings and Shaikhs. Kingship knows no kinship, so another contender of power in the dynasty Mir Murtaza Bhutto; Benazir Bhutto’s real brother was killed in an encounter with Benazir Bhutto’s police acting under the command of her minister for interior. Is this we call the democratic institutions? It is only in Pakistan, and we are ashamed of these so-called democratic institutions.

I would suggest without any fear or favour to scrap the 1973 Constitution of parliamentary form of government, which is not suited to the genesis of Pakistanis, wherein the members of the troika intrigue against each other. Presidential form of government is the only answer and general elections to the parliament on the basis of Proportional Representation system is choice before Pakistani nation now. Acting on the examples of PPP and Mian Nawaz Sharif and precedent set by Benazir Bhutto. General Pervez Musharraf would have been better advised to hold a referendum on his being the life President of Pakistan as was done by Dr. Soekarno in Indonesia.