PCNS Proves Democracy Works

Chaudhry Nisar

There’s a common joke that I hear from certain friends who take a cynical view of the world. “Democracy: Where any two fools can outvote a genius”. This is one of those jokes that sounds much more clever than it really is. For one thing, it is often a fool who thinks he’s a genius. More importantly, though, that’s not how democracy works anyway. Democracy isn’t three people trying to decide what to eat for dinner. In the case of parliament, for example, it’s hundreds of people representing all parts of society coming together to discuss, debate, and decide answers difficult questions. Most recently we saw this in action as the different parties were able to find common ground and make a unanimous agreement on the requirements for reengagement with the US.

In this example, the process was not fast or easy. The majority party did not simply over rule the other parties. Neither did the opposition parties use the opportunity for point scoring. Actually, all parties came to the table with their priorities, and where there were differences, debates were had, compromises made, and a unified policy worked out.

Coalition parties did not sell anything to America, but made a rational decision based on what is best for Pakistan. And even this was not an easy task. JUI-F boycotted the proceedings until Fazlur Rehman was satisfied following a series of meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, PCNS Chairperson Senator Raza Rabbani and Ambassador Sherry Rehman. Opposition parties were not ‘friendly opposition’ but held out until a compromise could be reached that satisfied all parties. The Americans had to wait, but so what – this was our chance to make our own policy and set our own boundaries for engagement. And we did.

Few reports explain this better than one in The News.

The sources said Pakistan’s Ambassador to US Sherry Rehman has played significant role in engaging various political groups for bringing them on consensus for the resolution. She was present in the Prime Minister Gallery in the Parliament when the resolution was put for the verdict of the house. Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, in his speech, talked high of her role and pointed out her presence in the gallery who was their colleague as member of the National Assembly for about four years. Prime Minister Gilani was the first to thump the desk and later joined by the members of the both sides.

The leaders of both sides of the divide paid rich tribute to the sagacity of the ambassador. A stalwart of the opposition, Ahsan Iqbal, pointed out that the recommendations have no mention of ties with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries. Senator Raza Rabbani, who tabled the report, conceded the error and the GCC countries were also enlisted which are the major source of valued remittances.

The sources said the Nato supply had become compulsion since it involved 48 countries which are present in Afghanistan in various capacities. Pakistan has been facilitating the countries for about 10 years without any remuneration and now they are planning to leave the area, it would not be in the interest of Pakistan to deny them the facility. The point was accepted by the committee, the sources said.

Unlike under past governments when secret deals were worked out behind closed doors, opposition parties silenced, and the people kept in the dark about reality, this time we had an open and honest debate about issues facing the nation and worked through our differences to decide a consensus approach that respects all parties’ concerns. As a result, the recommendations have the full backing of parliament and not just the ruling party. Many people said it could not be done, that politicians from different backgrounds could not work together to form a unified policy for the nation. Today, it is those people who look like fools. Because it is now proven that given the chance, democracy works.

Real Political Parties Unite To Address Economy

Pakistan Business Council

Earlier this week I wrote that “Meeting the needs of the people requires compromise. It requires the willingness to work with other people – even those you don’t agree with. It requires the organizational capacity of a political party, not cheap publicity stunts and sound bites. It’s always easiest to say ‘no’. Finding a way to get to ‘yes’ takes real leadership.”

Thankfully, it looks like some people are showing some real leadership by working together to find common ground from which to formulate a national economic agenda that focuses on the welfare of the citizens.

Dr, Farooq Sattar from MQM said that the balance of economic power is shifting from West to East and if we could not correct our fundamental economic wrongs we would left far behind in the regional economic race.

“We need to design a charter of economy which may be formulated with mutual consensus. Moreover there should be no injustice in tax system. Tax should be levied on every type of income. Tax net should be enhanced including bringing agriculture sector into the tax net,” he suggested the recommendations and added that agriculture of the country contributes 23 per cent of national GDP but unfortunately its contribution in tax is only one per cent.

Raja Pervez Ashraf from Pakistan Peoples’ Party stressed the need for sustainable economic policies and said that country can only prosper if the sustainable economic policies evolved with mutual agreement.

Ahsan Iqbal from PML-N said that the main problem in our economic system is lack of implementation. He said that if we implement all the policies made for the economic strength of the country, our economy would be strengthen to a great deal.

Regarding recent Pakistan-India trade agreement, Farooq Sattar said that his party fully supports the enhancing of trade between Pakistan and India.

Similarly Ahsan Iqbal said that regional trade is very important for the country’s economic growth and there should be no harm in starting trade relations with India.

Former Minister for Information Sherry Rehman said that agreement between the two countries was of great importance for both the countries as it would help improve the trade and as well as political relations between the two countries.

This is the hard work of politics. This is the type of coming together and reaching compromises and consensus that will improve the lives of the poor and desperate. Anyone can put on a simple latha shalwar kameez and sleep under open sky. Play acting politics is fine for some. But moving the country forward requires more. When MQM, PPP, PML-N can come together and reach agreement, that is when things get done.