Pakistan

Tussle within the opposition

Oct 3, 2017
IS it to the benefit or the detriment of democracy in the country? The manoeuvrings among the opposition in parliament have shone a spotlight on the importance of the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. It has been an evolution of the parliamentary system to give the leader of the opposition a significant role in the selection of candidates for key constitutional posts and to strengthen the accountability and electoral systems. Unhappily, however, theory has been stronger than practice so far as the past decade of democracy has seen a relatively smooth process between the government and the opposition in reaching necessary decisions on certain appointments, but the results from a perspective of strengthening democracy have been far from satisfactory. Particularly when it comes to the existing accountability regime, the PML-N and PPP have engineered a system that does not produce much by way of actual accountability.
 
So the PTI’s quest to supplant Khursheed Shah as leader of the opposition in the National Assembly with one of its own members could provide a necessary jolt to the system. It is far from clear if the PTI effort will succeed. The party leadership has paid little attention to cultivating ties in the parliamentary opposition, while the PPP team is formidable and savvy. The PPP also has an advantage in its slightly larger parliamentary presence than the PTI and it will be loath to give up one of its most significant parliamentary cards ahead of the next general election. It is not merely prestige that is on the line. In a better world, the individual strengths of the PTI and PPP would combine inside parliament to produce a twin benefit. The PPP’s intuitive understanding of the need to strengthen parliament would allow for necessary cooperation on constitutional matters with the PML-N government where necessary, while the PTI’s determination to improve the quality of democracy would keep the pressure on the government to have better quality leaders in key constitutional posts.
 
After all, the whole point of joint government-opposition nomination of the NAB chief, members of the election commission and the caretaker government is to instal leaders who are willing to further the democratic cause rather than follow the wishes of the government or the opposition. Ideally, the PTI would not have wasted the past four years either trying to tear down the current parliament or ignoring its potential to force institutional change. That is what makes the PTI’s current push to replace Khursheed Shah appear opportunistic and has created doubt about whether the PTI’s real intention is to simply damage the PML-N politically at a time the government is facing multiple crises or to in fact nominate quality leaders to the upcoming openings. A NAB chief who will investigate all impartially is what is needed, not a figure who will simply focus on one party or individual.
 
Dawn News, October 2, 2017

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