NINE months in power and the government has yet to put the system on rails in line with promises contained in the Charter of Democracy and the PPP election manifesto. This is causing inefficiency while damaging the credibility of the PPP leadership. Parliament constitutes the cornerstone of the democratic system. General Musharraf was rightly criticised for weakening the supreme legislative body and using it as a rubberstamp. The tendency, it appears, persists under the present government. The state of neglect can be gauged from the fact that out of 46 standing committees of the National Assembly, 23 are yet to be elected. This has led to the clogging of the legislative process. Over all these months, the Lower House has managed to pass only four legislative bills while 25 important bills, including those seeking amendments in the existing OGRA, PEMRA, Representation of the People Act and Code of Criminal Procedure bills, remain pending. This indicates indifference towards the business of the House and a proclivity inherited from military rulers to run the administration through Ordinances. Decisions continue to be taken on vital national issues behind the scenes rather than after thorough debates in the National Assembly. Equally objectionable is the way the administration is being run. In a parliamentary democracy, the Prime Minister occupies centrestage. It is he who issues policy statements on important policy issues, conducts talks with his foreign counterparts and visits foreign countries to resolve bilateral or multilateral issues. He also holds talks with political leaders at home. Consequently, he is the most visible person in the government. But the Prime Minister has been pushed into the background and the centrestage occupied by the President. Earlier, Mr Zardari held the crucial talks with the PML(N), leading to the Murree Declaration and negotiated with Mian Nawaz to hold the alliance together. It was he who brokered the agreement with other parties to impeach the President. In a move that can only be characterised as anomalous, President Zardari and not Prime Minister Gilani, addressed a joint press conference with British PM George Gordon Brown. Mr Gilani has been rendered so ineffective that he has not yet been allowed to appoint three crucial federal secretaries of his choice including his principal secretary. To strengthen parliamentary democracy, there is a need to strike down the 17th amendment and revive the constitution in the form envisioned in the CoD. One-man rule has harmed Pakistan in the past. So will it in future. The performance of the National Assembly has to be improved to make it a really sovereign. Similarly the PM has to act as the most powerful political functionary in the system.