The parliamentarians are upset that the manicured lawns of their august house are littered with ‘gypsies’ and ‘terrorists’. Sneaking in through backdoors to avoid the messy masses, they convene in the plush national assembly these days to save the parliamentary system from ‘barbarians’ outside. The jury is still out on whether they have what it takes to save it. The question is: What happens if they succeed? Will anything change?

Regardless of the veracity of various conspiracy theories doing the rounds 24/7 in the media, it is obvious that the biggest threat to the parliament is our parliamentarians. Had they been sincere to their duty, things would never have reached this point. A functioning parliament representing 200 million people could never come to this. But let’s face it, our parliament was not functioning and there are serious question marks about its representative claims. So, would this shock therapy arouse our parliamentarians from their deep slumber?

It would be nice if it does. But what’s happening on the floor of the house these days is hardly reassuring. Rather than putting their heads together to diffuse the situation, the leaders are abusing those gathered outside and protesting. Admonishing the government for all the dirty undemocratic things it has done is fine but what is the point of all this criticism if, at the end of the day, those giving Nawaz Sharif a hiding also give him their unconditional support, without making him cede any ground.

The parliamentarians, who seem to have designated to themselves the role of a protective shield around Nawaz Sharif, take the brute undemocratic actions and tone of his government in their stride as if it has nothing to do with creating the crisis. They’d like to target those outside their elitist club. Insinuations, accusations and insults targeting the military are voiced from the floor of the house. Interestingly, the military is guarding them from the ‘terrorists’ and ‘gypsies’ who’d like to drag them on the streets and hang them in public squares. What if the soldiers get sick of guarding people heaping abuse on the institution they serve and remove themselves from the middle? What will then save our parliamentarians from the wrath of these ‘barbarians’ with blood in their eyes?

The parliamentarians would like to blame everyone but themselves. They still wouldn’t like to look in the mirror and ask themselves where they went wrong. They are not interested in understanding what made the second largest party in the country abandon their powerful house and take to the streets. They don’t want to understand what has pushed Imran Khan, who would have liked to play by the rules, into his maximalist position. Blame is their favorite game.

The parliamentarians don’t want to understand why thousands of poor people have followed a shifty cleric to Islamabad to sleep under the open sky. Is it because they are ignorant or is it because they are poor? And even if they are misled and carry dandas, cutters and ghulails, don’t they have any rights? Should they be mowed down, tear-gassed, fired at and killed to clear the manicured lawns of the parliament house? The parliamentarians don’t want to ask the ruling party why 14 people were killed by the police in Lahore and why Gullu Butt was allowed to smash cars by the police there.

The parliamentarians have better things to do these days, like talking endlessly about the sanctity of the constitution and the parliament, and providing unconditional support to an authoritarian government with blood on its hands. To the parliamentarians, the constitution is a tool to protect the powerful and a rotten system that might provide them with many privileges but has nothing to offer to the people they claim to represent. They remember to quote it when in trouble. They hide behind selected provisions of the book to save their privilege. Otherwise, they really don’t give a fig about it. They make a mockery of it every day, in their personal lives and in the performance of duties we entrust them with. They call it constitutional democracy.

But what is democracy worth if it becomes a meaningless phrase for the people for whose benefit our parliamentarians claim to be fighting. The frills of democracy we are supposed to admire hide hideous stains, and allow countless crimes against the less privileged every day. These frills satisfy only the liberal intelligentsia. They make the privileged feel good about themselves and are of no real significance to a majority of people who are being pushed over the edge. When they don’t have bread, the parliamentarians and our well-off democracy-lovers are asking them to eat the cake of democracy.

If they convince us yet again that the cake is actually quite sumptuous and one of these days we’ll manage to get some crumbs, what then? How do our parliamentarians plan to conduct themselves after they’ve saved the system? Will they listen to the loud cries of the people crushed under the burden of their privilege? Will they stop thinking about themselves, their family and friends, and finally devote themselves to serving the people on whose backs they ride?

Will the opposition parliamentarians play their role? Will they restrain the government from using the might of the state to terrorize those who challenge their criminal behavior? Will they force it to give up its patronage of goons and ghundas infesting our neighbourhoods? Will our brave new parliament make the government accountable for its anti-people policies and corruption? Or will the parliament resume its circus?

Do the parliamentarians wish to get their manicured lawn cleared so that they could get to work with a renewed commitment to the people of this country? Have they understood what brought them there? Or are they waiting for the day when, like before, they’d be able to drive right to the front door of their plush assembly halls in their luxury cars, breezing through cameras to fight for pieces of the power-pie and treating the problems of our people with disdain.

If Islamabad is five minutes from Pakistan, then the august houses of the parliament are still a good one-hour drive further.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

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