By Raza Shahani
fter a successful revolution, the movements work painstakingly to retain the cohesion and lead the people to the promised destiny. Paradoxically, soon after creating the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the machinations and splits erupted in the Muslim League. Barring a few, the rest independence stalwarts entered the power-grab orchestrations. Thus, the factionalism ensued. Since then, the marked feature of the Pakistani politics has been the multi-party system. The political shenanigans eventually rendered the political class impotent; and resultantly, it paved the way for non-political forces to replace them. Henceforth, the non-political forces reduced the political forces to the position of puppets: they kept making and breaking the political parties without scruple and forced them into shifting their loyalties. Consequently, the rampant political instability, weak governments and the inconsequential parliament became the norm. To pull the plug on the rot, in 1997, the parliament passed the two amendments – 13th and the 14th – to restore the parliamentary sovereignty and supremacy, empower the government and bring the political stability. However, the 14th amendment which inserted the article 63A into the constitution to prevent the desertions has, in fact, diminished the parliament itself to the preserve of the political party; and by extension, the preserve of the head of a political party, who is invariably a patriarch of a political dynasty/family.
Great Britain is generally called the mother of the parliamentary democracy and is the model for the parliaments across the world. In a parliamentary democracy, the parliament is a sovereign and a supreme institution. Thus, the supreme power lies in the state with the parliament. Therefore, the Swiss political theorist Jean-Louis de Lolme had rightly said that the British “Parliament can do everything but make a woman a man and a man a woman.” This is so because the members of parliament are directly elected by the people of eighteen years age. Thus, the parliament is a representative institution, which represents the people. Moreover, parliament chooses the cabinet from within itself and holds it responsible to itself for its actions. Accordingly, the parliamentary form of the government is duly called the representative and responsible form of the government, in which the parliament represents the people in general and the government is responsible to it.
Although the government influences the parliament through the party in the parliament, the parliament since the government is made detaches itself from the government and acts as a separate, coherent and independent institution and places check on the government. Furthermore, if the government turns out to be corrupt, incompetent, indolent, inefficient, autocratic, arbitrary, and violent or dictator, the parliament dismisses it and replaces it with another government.
Similarly, the article 95-1 stipulates that if a resolution for a vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister is submitted in the parliament with no less than twenty per centum; and according to the article 95-4, if the majority of the members vote in favor of the no-confidence motion, the Prime Minister shall cease to hold office. However, the article 63A undermines the article 95-1 and 95-4. The article 63A, in fact, scuttles the parliamentary sovereignty and supremacy. It divests the parliament of its prerogative of replacing the unwanted government with another untried one.
The article 63A (ii) proclaims that the party members in the parliament are bound to vote according to the directions of the party in parliament in regard with the vote of confidence and the vote of no-confidence. If they vote against the directions of the parliamentary party, the party head will charge them with defection and will get them disqualified through the courts. Here flagrantly the supremacy, sovereignty and the independence of the parliament is made subservient to the party head who is always the patriarch of a political family.
Besides, the article places various other checks on the parliament and the elected members of the house. It strips off the parliament and its elected members of their right to exercise and express their authority, power and the will. Additionally, the article compromises the representative and responsible character of the parliament. With this article in place, the government is responsible to the party head, not to the parliament. Also, the article contravenes the right of the elected members to disagree with the party head on the matters of the money bills. Even if the budget is harmful to the voters of the member, one cannot disregard the directions of the party head in matters of the budget.
In countries, like Pakistan, concentration of powers in a single hand happens to be the wish of every ruler. The 63A has, in fact, made the party head a dictator in the parliamentary affairs and in the political system as well. Since there is no internal democracy in the political parties – the apex leadership of the parties is not elected on the basis of merit, but it comes on the connections with a political family –, the head of a political family wields more powers even than the Prime Minister. If the head of a political party himself is not the Prime Minister or he is not from the political family, the Prime Minister, he may be a party meritorious stalwart, is never let act on his own will. He is usually directed by the family political party head.
Thus, instead of stabilizing politics, empowering parliament and the government, the 63A has made the family political party head a dictator. The article should be scraped to restore the parliamentary supremacy and the sovereignty. To stabilize politics, strengthen parliament and the government, parties crucially need intra-party democracy. Their leadership should be elected on the bases of merit, not on the bases of their family roots. Moreover, turncoats should not be retaken in their respective ex-parties. Instead of coaxing old and tested deserters, the parties should invest on new young stuff.
Raza Shahani teaches at the department of Pakistan Studies, Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, Sindh