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Of parliament and parliamentarians

Published Jan 23, 2013 12:08am

RECENT efforts to focus on electoral reforms encourage one to contemplate on the role and performance of our law-makers, and to think what small steps can bring about the desired change.

Why do we elect them and what do we want? We expect that they make laws that enable people to have a peaceful and civilised life, create conditions which enable them to earn their livelihood honestly, and create an environment that encourages advancement in life and in learning, in creating new things and ideas, and developing a social system which adores and patronises excellence in every field.

They can do these if they really believe in this value system, if they really believe in democracy, which means equality of all before the law, and if they believe they are answerable to the people for all their actions and words and for their personal behaviour.

They will be able to do these if they possess the knowledge and awareness of their surroundings, and of the roles played by parliamentarians in other democratic countries, if they have the ability to communicate their views and ideas, if they are social conscious and deeply desire to serve (rather than rule) the people and do something to assist them in advancing in learning, in making inventions and in promoting professionalism, if they posses an exemplary character, and if they are known as honest and upright, and present themselves as good leaders having good behavior.

They should feel comfortable or rather proud in being taken as common citizens, and shun the very concept of perks and privileges and protocol. They should set an example by leading a simple life, and shun ostentation and snobbery.

What they have been doing for the last six decades is obvious and unfortunate. They treat their parliamentary seats as a legacy, which they can pass on to the next of kin. They treat the common man with contempt and use their position to further enhance their pelf and power.

Being secure in their seats, they do not care to present themselves as responsible and respectable citizens. Their lifestyles are obnoxious. They have palaces, large mansions, huge fleet of vehicles, a private army of guards, and an abundance of servants. In short, they are a class by themselves. They speak for themselves with empty seats in the House and a lively rendezvous in the parliament’s cafeteria.

Putting things on the right track is a tall order, almost impossible. But some minor steps may help in cutting down the extravagance and instill a sense of responsibility and commitment.

Not all legislators are short of money. But those who need should be paid salary/allowance for the number of hours spent inside the parliament. Their salary should not exceed minimum wages fixed by the government.

They should only get an airfare fit for the economy class, and health facilities only for Pakistani government hospitals, and their children should study in local government institutions only.

If wishes were horses....

S.M. MAHBOOB Karachi