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Parliament trivia

September 06, 2017

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LAMENTABLY, Pakistan has had a chequered, oft-disrupted parliamentary history, where not one of 18 prime ministers has completed a full five-year tenure. It is therefore not surprising that there is scant attention paid in Pakistan to niceties such as interesting parliamentary facts and trivia.

Unlike mature democracies like the UK, hardly any record is kept of Pakistani parliamentarians’ length of service, longevity and their association with unique historical events. The concept of honorific titles, such as Father of the House (the person with the longest uninterrupted record of parliamentary service), is also unknown to our parliament.

However, if this title were to be bestowed on a member of the current National Assembly, the distinction would belong to Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. The MNA from NA 52 (Rawalpindi III) has been elected to the National Assembly at each election since 1985 — the longest unbroken record of parliamentary service in Pakistan. Further, there is no other MNA in the history of Pakistani parliamentary politics who has ever been elected to the National Assembly on eight occasions, consecutively or otherwise; therefore Chaudhry Nisar has truly accomplished a golden double.

Interestingly, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the MNA from NA 55 (Rawalpindi VI), has been elected MNA on seven occasions since the 1985 elections. But for his defeat in 2008, he would have been tied with Chaudhry Nisar for the record of eight successive electoral wins.

The title of Father of the House belongs to Chaudhry Nisar.

Moving on, it is noteworthy that Sahibzada Nazir Sultan, the PML-N MNA from NA 90 (Jhang II), enjoys the unique distinction of being the last serving parliamentarian who was elected MNA in the historic 1970 elections. With 43 years separating his first election in 1970 and his latest election in 2013, Nazir Sultan holds the record for the longest span of parliamentary election victories. Overall, this scion of the house of Sultan Bahu has been elected MNA on an impressive six occasions.

Interestingly, the only two members from the 1970 assembly who went on to serve as presidents of Pakistan were Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Fazal Elahi Chaudhry in the 1970s. However, in a case of delicious irony, the current president of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid, is one of the 160 MNAs who were elected on the Awami League ticket to the first and last National Assembly of united Pakistan.

The venerable Dr Mubashir Hasan, now 95 years, is the oldest surviving former member of the 1970 assembly. Further, he is arguably also the oldest living former parliamentarian in Pakistan. And above all, as a former finance minister under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, he is the only living former federal finance minister from the era before the 1990s. Thus, Dr Mubashir Hasan is clearly a man from a bygone age!

Speaking of the Bhutto cabinets, it is no surprise that Syed Qaim Ali Shah is the only federal minister of that era who is still active in politics, currently as an MPA in Sindh. His last assignment in the Bhutto cabinet was as minister for Kashmir Affairs in 1977. Former Bhutto cabinet members Mumtaz Ali Bhutto and Mustafa Khar are also active in politics, but electoral success has generally eluded them, particularly the former who has failed to be elected MNA since 1977.

Finally, the record to beat all records. One person still treads terra firma who served as a member of the second constituent assembly of Pakistan back in 1955-1958. This distinction goes to none other than the tumandar of the Mazaris and the short-lived caretaker prime minister of Pakistan in 1993, Mir Balkh Sher Mazari. At age 89, Mazari belongs to an era which has passed into the annals of history. His insight into the working of the constituent assembly would be priceless; thus if ever there was a basis for penning memoirs and contributing to national historical scholarship, it holds true for the Mazari chieftain.

Interestingly, the two Baloch sardars, Mir Balkh Sher Mazari and the late Nawab Akbar Bugti, were the only two members of the second constituent assembly who continued to remain active in parliamentary politics for over 40 years, until the 1990s. Mir Balkh Sher was last elected MNA in 1993, while Nawab Akbar Bugti finished his parliamentary career with membership of the 1997 National Assembly.

This peek into some juicy parliamentary trivia was intended to whet the readers’ appetite for such offerings and to evoke their interest in our political history, a subject which sadly few of us read and even fewer understand. Our parliamentarians may have frequently blotted their copybook, but they have still set some novel records of parliamentary service, even in the face of constant disruptions of parliamentary democracy. This facet of our parliamentary history deserves to be acknowledged.

The writer is an in-house lawyer in the telecom industry.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2017