Disappointed over the deferment of the Panama Papers case by the Supreme Court Imran Khan has returned to the National Assembly, ending six-week boycott by members of his Tehreek-e-Insaf.
This happened a second time PTI members had boycotted parliamentary proceedings; they even submitted resignations to protest the alleged rigging of the 2013 general elections. The National Assembly resumed its winter session from Wednesday, and on the very first day of its resumption, the PTI sought to trigger a debate on the alleged misstatement by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about his family’s involvement in the Panama Papers scandal. The Pakistan People’s Party had already moved a privilege motion on the issue, a development which might have obliged Imran Khan to end the boycott, in the hope that the PTI would have the company of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s party.
But he is not sure of that – it would be a test as to “who stands with us”, says he. Is it then a question of whether the PTI is frustrated over the delay in the hearing by the Supreme Court, or is there an apprehension that the PPP was going to steal the march against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Insiders say that Imran Khan’s party is divided over the boycott issue, that some of the rejectionists feel it is undemocratic and morally unjustified, given the fact that they get paid even when they don’t attend the sessions. As for the PPP, while Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is for a hard line against Nawaz Sharif, Yousuf Raza Gilani is for some kind of bargain with the government.
So, as the National Assembly session gets under way there may be a lot of sound and fury, but not a win-win outcome for the opposition, because the government has a massive majority and exerts complete control over the legislative business of the house.
But the constitutional provision which prohibits members of an elected house from misusing its floor by dishing out lies to the nation cannot be overlooked. That Nawaz Sharif should claim having all documents to prove the trail of money spent to buy properties in London but fail to produce them in the Supreme Court is something that offends the Constitution. No one is allowed to play tricks with the constitutional diktat that a person who is not “sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen” cannot be elected to any legislative house of Pakistan.
How can you trivialize the authority of this provision by saying what the prime minister said was “a political speech”? Imran Khan is spot-on by pointing out the case of the Brazilian president who had to face impeachment only because Dilma Rousseff had provided wrong figures about the budget to parliament. Of course, given the PML-N’s majority in the house the PTI’s motions may not succeed in securing a comprehensive debate on this issue. But, to quote Thomas Jefferson, “… that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will be rightful, must be reasonable, that the minority possess equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression”.
Should the opposition fail in launching a full-fledged debate against the prime minister for making the “false statement” there is some logic to Imran Khan’s assertion that “what will the Opposition do in parliament if it cannot make the prime minister answerable there?”
In a democratic dispensation, making laws in accordance with its plans that is the majority’s exclusive right, but that right is to be exercised within the limits of rationality and constitutionality.
And Imran Khan must wait for that to happen; too many boycotts would tend to take his politics beyond the pale of democracy.