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EDITORIAL: Former prime minister and senior PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi pulled no punches in his farewell speech in parliament, calling the outgoing National Assembly the “worst of all time” because it passed bills that facilitated the government and provided no relief to the masses in the last five years.

Surely, that would have upset some of his party colleagues since PML-N led the PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) coalition government for the last year and a half.

But he’s been something of an outsider ever since he objected to the elevation of Maryam Nawaz to the position of senior vice president of the party and has spent most of his time ”Reimagining Pakistan” with likeminded friends and colleagues, including former finance minister Miftah Ismail.

That’s probably why he had no qualms about criticising how “40-53 private member bills were passed in the National Assembly in a matter of a few days”, and that it “raised questions about the credibility of members of the house”. He also came down pretty hard on the speaker, since it is his constitutional duty as custodian of the house to intervene when its dignity is put into question.

This was also probably the first time that a member of the house castigated his colleagues for imposing taxes on the people while not paying any themselves.

Going forward, his remark that “people say that all members of the assembly are corrupt and we show that they are correct” shows that the stench of foul play and exploitation that emanates from the house does not escape its own members.

Welcome as these candid confessions are, people are now wondering why this outburst didn’t come earlier; when the assembly was in the process of committing all those wrongs.

He couldn’t have done much in the time when PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) ran the show, not least because he was in incarceration most of the time, but surely as former PM himself and senior parliamentarian he had the ear of Shehbaz Sharif. Perhaps he should answer such questions as well when he interacts with the public next time.

Still, better late than never, and there is something ironically progressive about parliament facing such bitter criticism from within itself.

There’s no doubt at all that senior politicians live in their own sweet bubble, divorced both from reality and the issues that concern the people the most. They care about nothing as much as their own sense of power and privilege; and have shown again and again that they will let nothing get in the way of these pursuits, not even a government machinery crumbling under its own feet.

Abbasi proposed a truth commission, on the lines of the South African truth and reconciliation commission no doubt.

But he misses the obvious point that such initiatives never took off in Pakistan because, as Nelson Mandela himself explained to the world years ago, they need “sincerity of purpose”. And our political elite, known form hopping from party to party and lying about the real purposes every time in each case, knows no higher purpose than further empowering and enriching themselves.

The people know as much, and now we know that if one parliamentarian knows it and speaks out about it, then the rest of them also know that they aren’t exactly loved by the people that vote them into the house. This system is clearly on its last legs.

And if it is not reformed from within, as Abbasi pleaded, then our democrats would be responsible for sending our beloved democracy to its grave all over again.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Comments

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Qasim Aug 16, 2023 12:13pm
Very good piece. It is sad that those who take a chance and try to speak the truth and try to do good are either sidelined or punished severely. We need to support those who are willing to stand up against the status quo. We have to do this before all opposition is completely crushed and powerless.
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Johnny Walker Aug 16, 2023 02:38pm
Mr Abbasi has declared himself Sadiq & Amin. Wow. Requires a lot of thick skin.
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Zia Ullah Khan Aug 16, 2023 06:22pm
Democracy in Pakistan has already been buried and done with.
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zh Aug 16, 2023 11:15pm
Better late than never; the realization of facts comes a bit late. Mr. Abbasi was a minister under the supremo, who perhaps did not pay the due tax and used public money to improve his private residence. He also perhaps did not pay for electricity, gas and other amenities used at Jetty Umra by declaring it as the sub-prime minister's residence, which in itself reeks of corruption. As prime minister, he failed to introduce the necessary reforms to laws to curb the preferential treatment of elites.
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zh Aug 16, 2023 11:52pm
Khakan Abbasi is one of the best choices to lead the country. But unfortunately, he is entirely under the thumb of NS and Ss, so much so that he is incapable of independent thinking.
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