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A code for parliamentarians

39 13 23

POLITICS in Pakistan is being reduced to the exchange of invective between rival groups. Those shouting the loudest and hurling the harshest expletives at fellow politicians are considered the most effective defenders of their party’s’ interests. There is a broad consensus that this disorder needs to be checked.

Sometime ago, angry and improper speeches in the National Assembly caused such a rumpus that the demand for a code of ethics for parliamentarians was supported by nearly all the MNAs present. Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, who speaks much less frequently than his loquacious colleagues in the cabinet, was asked to get the required code drafted. Nothing more about the initiative has been heard and it is time the matter was earnestly taken up.

To older citizens, especially those with long memories, the call for a code of ethics for parliamentarians might sound strange and unnecessary. They had heard or read about debates in pre-Independence assemblies, particularly at the central level, in which a member on the opposite side was addressed with respect as “my learned friend” and if the element of courtesy had to be reduced, the word ‘learned’ was dropped.

In the Central Assembly of India, the representatives of the Raj were endlessly attacked by nationalist members but neither side used pejorative expressions about the others. Policies were attacked and government actions were denounced but fellow parliamentarians’ personal status was not targeted. Recognition of one another’s inherent dignity did not dilute the force of disagreement or censure the speaker wished to convey.


© Dawn