For the first time, the prestigious abode of controlled or ‘guided’ democracy in the fifth largest republic of the world, Pakistan, has felt a powerful current beneath its bottom. The patriots, either from Punjab or KPK or even from Baluchistan angrily blasted at the floor that the new inhabitants have occupied the House after the ruins of the august House in the land of the ‘pure’. The elder son of veteran liberal leftist politician of Pakistan, Mir Ghaus Bukhsh Bazenju in 1970s who belonged to Baluchistan, Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bazenju, exhausted all his rag-ridden vocabulary to blame that the gleaming face of the Senate has been blotted with a black liquid of dirty politics. For he said: “he is ashamed of sitting in the House”, adding that he does not think it “appropriate to congratulate” the newly elected Chairman and Deputy Chairman, Senate of Pakistan. Ironically, a Senator from Baluchistan refused to welcome the Chairman from Baluchistan.

Mir Saddiq Sanjrani, Chairman Senate, exercising self-restraint and patience, heard all this with smiling face. Instead, he asked the interrupting senators to listen to the injured loin roaring in the House. Since day the political parties nominated the candidates for elections of the Senate till the elections of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, Senate, the conventional intellectuals, dominant political class and all time happy democrats have been in anguish because of the way the powerful forces designed the future Upper House. In the fair society, transparent system of democracy and responsible government, all and sundry support or oppose successors and predecessors purely on the basis of strong moral values and particularly the history of the outgoing representatives. Transfer of power is always free from the syndromes of political prejudices and self-interests. However, the polarized societies and democracies always travel in time space, carrying their specific agenda that only serves their own interests. To the active groups and classes in the arena of politics, the principles, laws, ethics and even history do not carry any significance. Rhetoric, jargons and clichés become a common and popular way of expression. Under these circumstances, the only victim is the democracy which gets its base strength from universal laws and norms.

In this perspective, the aggressive opponents of the Senate elections, either of its members or chairman and deputy chairman, cannot contest their case on the basis of strong moral values, principle and the history of this institution. If a student of history compares the elections of Senate since 1985 to 2018 purely on the basis of admitted norms of democracy, he shall find no difference between the elections of 1985 and 1988, 1996 and 1999 and 2003 and 2006. From 1985 to 2018, there have seven chairmen Senate. First three who controlled the Upper House for 21 years out of 33 years were the chosen men of so-called ‘establishment’. Specifically, Ghulam Ishaq Khan had been the Secretary General in Zulifikar Ali Bhutto’s bureaucracy who was first appointed as Finance Minister and then chairman Senate by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. Second chosen man was Mr. Waseem Sajad who mysteriously entered the Upper House in 1988 and became the chairman Senate, enjoying the longest period of Senate chairmanship for 9-years till 1999. Then came Mian Muhammad Somro who first was appointed Governor, Sindh and then was made chairman Senate. From where he came and to where he went after 2006 does not matter. Similarly, the nation hardly knows the native province of Mr. Sajad, though on paper he was from Punjab. The persons who ruled the Upper House for longest period had no political party and no democratic history. In the past, an ex-bureaucrat and ex-banker were chosen for Senate of Pakistan, which is purely a political body.

Paradoxically, the democratic institutions are not persons-specific, as they are system-oriented. Though, the uproar over the way the perennial elections of the Senate were completed look the outcome of the spirit of age, yet it is heavy burden on the shoulders of all stakeholders of democracy to prove themselves capable of running democracy, successfully. For this, they will rise above their choices and priorities. If they really want something good for the peoples, they will have to change the rule of the game, making this institution vibrant, proactive and pro-masses. If the history of it continues unchanged, merely the elections of the Senate would succeed to alter the course of the Upper House. Of course, it was not the priority of the creators of political system after 5th July, 1977 that the democratic institutions must grow and flourish as role-model of the civil society. As a result, the performance of Senate since its inception remained negligible and low-category, for it became a place of gimmicks and tactics. A debate for sake of a debate is the salient characteristic of the Senate of Pakistan. Given the situation, even angel like chairman and deputy chairman cannot improve the tarnished image of the Senate in the eyes of the nation. Therefore, Senate must come out of the brunt of personal impact or interpretation. In democratic world in 21st century, no unqualified support to any organ of republic or representative body is considered viable. “August, honorable, sovereign and prestigious” are the out-fashioned words because of the change in the perception of democracy. As performance is more important than that of conventional regard and respect, there is no devil and no angel in democratic set up. Verily, all men are equal before law. What makes a man different from a man is a character and performance. In fact, the audit of performance is the ‘test titmice’ to evaluate the hidden ingredients of body and soul.

After all, the tax-payers have to bear the heavy burden of the financial resources incurred on the ease and comfort of the senators and administration of the Senate. Ultimately, a dire question arises: how much money from the national exchequer is spent on it and what the Senate gives to the nation in return. Prior to 5th July, 1977, the annual budgetary allocations were restricted only to dozens of millions of rupees which has now exceeded Rs.2359 million. In the national Budget-2017-18, Rs.3820 million was provided for the National Assembly of Pakistan and Rs.2359 million for the Senate of Pakistan. The total numbers of the MNAs is 342 while of the Senators is 104. In this way, Rs.11.1 million is spent on per MNA and Rs.22.6 million on per Senator per annum. One Senator costs 103% more than that of one MNA in Pakistan. If one senator gets the double money, he or she will have to make double efforts to justify their double benefits. The gigantic task the newly elected chairman Mir Saddiq Sanjrani is to reduce the Senate expenditures in hand with increase in the performance of the Senate of Pakistan. Verily, he himself has come from the poverty-stricken province and loan-ridden republic of Pakistan.

 

The writer is EX-Director General (Translation), Senate of Pakistan).

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