The Joint Session of the Parliament kicked off on Tuesday against the backdrop of violent PAT and PTI protestors gathered in Islamabad for the last two weeks. In many ways, it was a historical occasion. Javed Hashmi, after reiterating his support for democracy and openly refusing to become part of any conspiracy against it, announced his resignation from the National Assembly. He arrived and left amidst applause from Parliamentarians across party lines. Aitzaz Ahsan lectured Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on democratic values. And the Prime Minister sat in his chair and listened; a sight to cherish. Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman did not shy away from adding their two cents to the mix either. But, this was bigger than personalities, bigger than anyone seated inside or outside the Parliament. We witnessed a Parliament united in defiance against forces hellbent on derailing the system under the pretext of change and revolution. We witnessed politicians rise above partisanship answering to the call of their democratic duty; that of preserving the sanctity of the constitution and the institution meant to reflect the collective will of the people of Pakistan. We saw a heavy mandated government seeking validation from the opposition, which rose to the occasion by offering principled support coupled with necessary rebuke. Our past is tarnished with events defined by shortsighted political opportunism, and on Tuesday, the people’s representatives took a leap forward in an attempt to break away from poor traditions, inciting hope by example for a new era of political responsibility and sensibility. It would not be wrong to claim that all in all, it was a good day for democracy.
However, democracy needs more than a single good day. It is a never-ending process, never ceasing to improve and correct, and relies on the collective behavior of both people and their representatives to deliver what is expected from it. The government would do well not to emerge as an arrogant victor. We’d rather see a humbled survivor; an entity which has learnt its lessons well enough not to be forgotten once imminent threat has been averted. The threat of poor performance and undemocratic behaviors is consistent, and it comes from within this country’s Parliamentarians. The conspiracy of complacency, carelessness and dishonesty is hatched in the hearts and minds of our Parliamentarians, not in some dark room crowded with people with dark intentions. Aitzaz Ahsan was right in reminding the PM that the opposition would revert to its original role as soon as this troublesome phase was over. We expect it to. From the government, we expect growth and maturity, humility and engagement, and of course, fulfillment of its many promises.