My friend Sardar Ayaz Sadiq the son of Lahore, remained custodian of the house from 2008 to 2013. He had to briefly step down when he was unseated by the Election Tribunal for ballot irregularities. Once there was a time in the land of the pure when political leaders gracefully left the arena when fingers were pointed at them. Perhaps we live in different times now. While addressing the parliament on October 28, 2020 he made an extraordinary revelation on the floor of the house. According to him the Foreign Minister chickened out on the Indian threat of attack in February 2019 and quickly released their captured pilot Wing Comdr Abhinandan. I am disappointed at both the former and current Speaker of the elected body. Lately PML-N has been on a path of self-destruction by attacking state institutions. Its rhetoric is mind boggling but the response from the other side is equally disappointing.

It is true that any statement made on the floor of the house is immune from legal consequences but then the Speaker has the total responsibility to conduct the proceedings. He can mute the mike of the out-of-control speaker, expunge objectionable remarks or expel him/her from the house.

This is not the first time when the PML-N has been attacking the soft belly of PTI, as it never gets an adequate response. The Speaker helplessly watches while experienced stalwarts like Khawaja Asif and Ayaz Sadiq openly blurt lies on the floor of the house. They must be checked. Asad Qaiser once corrected Shehbaz Sharif when he said that not a single hospital was built by PTI in KPK; he intervened and listed the new health facilities that were made available to the public in his home constituency.

Ayaz Sadiq’s tirade was also directed towards the Foreign Minister as they find him to be the softest belly within PTI; perhaps the most ambitious politician of our times, who has a record of switching political loyalties. His father, Sajjad Hussain Qureshi was an important leader of PPP in 1970. In the year 1985, the family shifted loyalties, Sajjad Sahib became the Governor of Punjab while Shah Mahmood was elected MPA. In 1986 he joined PML-Junejo; in return he was inducted into the cabinet of Nawaz Sharif as a provincial minister. In 1993 he joined PPP and was elected MNA in the 2002 elections and again in 2008 to become the foreign minister. In 2011 when he was dropped from this position, he joined PTI in November soon after the mammoth October Jalsa of Imran Khan at Minar-e-Pakistan.

Despite a very chequered political history, Pakistan has a strong legacy of great speakers. When Baboo Ghulam Muhammad dissolved the first elected assembly of Pakistan, Maulvi Tamizuddin the speaker, filed a petition in the Sindh High Court which restored the parliament. The Governor General went to appeal to the Justice Muhammad Munir-led Supreme Court. When the Speaker was stopped from reaching the court, he dared to go incognito by covering himself with a ‘Burqa’. Then Malik Mairaj Khalid in the eighties conducted his duties with dedication and honesty. Even in the 1985 party-less house, both the Speaker Syed Imam Hussain and the leader of the house Muhammad Khan Junejo led the parliament with utmost integrity.

Democracy has been repeatedly hounded in the republic. Hounds have come in various forms and shapes but they have never served the impoverished people of Pakistan. Today the parliament has become irrelevant. No one seems interested in public welfare legislation. While the attackers come prepared the defenders remain clueless. Very skilfully, the opposition delivers its tirade and lies without being checkmated and then they conveniently stage a walkout, pointing to the quorum shortfall. PPP does seem to follow some of its democratic traditions but PML-N and the Maulana remain on a collision course as their stakes in the system are very low. Now it is up to the custodian of the house to save and protect the parliament as Maulvi Tamizuddin once did.

Dr Farid A Malik

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation, email: fmaliks@hotmail.com