THIS is with reference to the analytical report “Will we get to see a ‘truly independent’ PM in office?” (Feb 10). The quote attributed to a journalist about the non-party dispensation of 1985 reflected only a part of the facts, and was, therefore, inaccurate and inadvertently misleading about an important phase of the nation’s political history.

While it is correct that the elections of February-March 1985 were held on a non-party basis, leaders of at least three political parties and other individuals with a previous association with parties and politics were also in the fray.

This writer was elected in those polls to the Senate by the Sindh Assembly on a seat reserved for technocrats as an independent individual with no previous party affiliation. One was thus a direct participant and witness to the proceedings of parliament, and the political process.

Leaders of three political parties who were elected to the Senate in March 1985 included Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Prof Khursheed Ahmed and Rahim Dad from Jamaat-i-Islami (JI); Qazi Abdul Latif and Maulvi Samiul Haq from their own factions of Jamait-i-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI), and members of Pakistan Muslim League (PML) factions, such as Mohammad Ali Khan Hoti from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP; then NWFP), and others.

Similarly, there were individuals with previous and ongoing affiliations with some political parties who were elected to the National Assembly. Soon after taking the oath as prime minister, Muhammad Khan Junejo, himself a member of the Pagara faction of the League, established an Official Parliamentary Group (OPG) in both houses of parliament. All were invited to join. About 20 members of the National Assembly (MNAs) out of 200, and eight senators out of 87, myself included, and those named above with party affiliations as well as a few others declined to join.

Instead, some of us — excluding the JI and JUI leaders — worked with like- minded individuals in the NA to set up our own Independent Parliamentary Group (IPG). On some issues, the JI and JUI supported the IPG, which included Syed Fakhar Imam, Syeda Abida Hussain, Air Marshal Nur Khan, Illahi Buksh Soomro, Javed Hashmi, Tariq Choudhry, Ahmed Mian Soomro, Rafia Tariq Rahim, Sylvat Sher Ali Khan and others.

After the end of martial law on Dec 30, 1985, de facto, and later de jure, the OPG-PML represented the ruling party in the officially non-party parliament up to May 29, 1988, when Gen Ziaul Haq dismissed Junejo and dissolved the NA.

As the record shows, the majority of those who were elected as independents demonstrated independent perspectives critical of martial law and the intrusion of the military into political affairs even while Zia was still there.

Several of them possessed respective political records prior to being elected in 1985. As such, their political lives did not commence in February-March 1985.

Besides, the conditions before, during and after the party-based polls of February 2024 are very different from those of February-March 1985. Yet, there is a commonality that elected independent legislators are capable of preserving their commitment to particular identities, principles and values even when there are covert interventions by those who violate their oaths of service in doing so.

Senator (retd) Javed Jabbar
Karachi

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2024

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