Time and words do not exist to be squandered. A lot of time has already been wasted, therefore we need to get straight to the facts.
As of 2017, the per day cost of the National Assembly of Pakistan, if counted over the total 365 calendar days of the year, amounts to Rs9.5 million. This figure is too stupefying to be believable for a Third World country whose only 1.4 million people, out of a total population of about 225 million, are tax filers and, consequently, the payers of these sessions.
These statistics imply that we, as a nation, do not have even a single second to splurge. And the fact that our assemblies often fail to function owing to the lack of quorum when the quorum is merely 25 per cent, i.e. the presence of only 86 out of 342 elected members is required to maintain it, makes the whole situation alarmingly shameful. Why is it so that our representatives, in the given scenario, tend to waste our time and resources on useless debates which cannot better the lives of people of Pakistan?
For several days, our honourable Parliament remained engaged in opposing and justifying the Premier’s statement against Bilawal Bhutto. The debate was whether or not Imran Khan had called the fellow parliamentarian a “sahiba” intentionally. The opposition was adamant on proving it to be a deliberate remark while those sitting on government benches insisted it to be a mere slip of the tongue.
This was followed by a number of press conferences along with adjourning of a couple of sessions. As shown on national television channels, women MNAs gathered in front of the Speaker’s dais and tore up the copies of agenda scheduled to be brought to the floor that day.
It included two Calling Attention Notices regarding the release of thousands of Pakistanis in jails abroad and the non-release of funds for establishment of a Neurosciences Centre at PIMS Islamabad. But obviously discussing the “sahiba” comment was more important.
The Opposition claims that such comments imply that being a woman is an insult. Maryam Nawaz called the remarks as “absolutely disgusting and odious”, while Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the language used by the Premier was “clearly reflective of his mentality, training and education”. While it is still unclear whether the comment was made deliberately or not, how about bringing into discussion Khawaja Asif’s “tractor trolley” comment that was a direct target at fellow MNA Shireen Mazari? Wasn’t that derogatory enough for women to be condemned?
There is no denying the fact that misogyny is a deep-rooted problem in our society. But the credit of setting the trend among the Islamic countries goes to this very country when it comes to electing the first female head of government. Thus it has never been about demeaning women. It would be more pertinent to say that such comments compare their incapability to perform well professionally with physical disabilities of epicenes. Thus it should be more about fighting for the rights of the third gender than gathering around the Speaker’s desk and protesting with laughs and giggles.
Yet, if calling a man a ‘sahiba’ is sexism, then vice versa is also true because Benazir Bhutto, too, was subjected to another version of sexism during her time when she was called by such names as “veritable parrot”, “yellow taxi” and many other foul insults which cannot be mentioned here. And the man who passed most of these comments is the same MNA who was lately seen justifying Imran Khan’s comment on Bilawal by calling it “light music”. Thus this prejudice is not new.
Such wastage of time, energy and words has compelled people to think about revising the model of governance. And why shouldn’t it be revisited when the system seems to be serving the interests of lawmakers more than those of the people? After all, rulers should serve instead of being served.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2019.