The 35-year-old legislator speaks about Pakistan’s Mexican standoff, and Parliament’s unsung feats.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was served a contempt of court notice by the Supreme Court on Jan. 16. And, rejecting the government’s position, the Army considers Memogate to be a real issue. Do you believe Pakistani democracy is in danger?
The only solution to Pakistan’s problems is democracy and plenty of it. Participation in the electoral process by everyone—especially the young, and women—and uninterrupted democracy are critical requirements for the country’s long-term stability and economic growth. We need to keep the system going irrespective of who comes to power, even if it’s Nawaz Sharif.
How do you view the recent success of Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf?
Their Lahore rally [on Oct. 30] attracted a lot of people, who were curious to hear what Imran Khan had to say. Right now, they’re only attracting crowds. They have to convert their popularity into votes. Anyone who wants to participate in the electoral process should be given a fair chance, and PTI’s success in exciting potential, first-time voters is a good bellwether for Pakistani politics. The party they’re most likely to affect is the PMLN, then PMLQ, and then perhaps the PPP.
Is Memogate a cause of concern for you as a member of the ruling party?
This issue should not be allowed to derail the solid working relationship the government has had with the military. I don’t see this becoming a real threat, but it is a sensitive issue.
The current Parliament passed two constitutional amendments but is still derided as a “rubberstamp assembly.” Does the criticism have any validity?
This Parliament has also passed more than 70 bills. Legislatively, this National Assembly has been one of the most proactive and efficient. Compare this to the Punjab Assembly, where they’ve only made something like a dozen new laws over the last four years, with no private member’s bill being entertained. Prime Minister Gilani, Speaker Mirza, and the party whips have led Parliament well. I’ve personally worked on laws to clean up the civil service by enforcing merit and ensuring the declaration of assets, to penalize squatters, to make cyber bullying and harassment punishable crimes, to have telecom companies regulate the retail of phone numbers, to make new provinces, to have Parliament’s say in foreign policy.
Are other freshman legislators similarly charged about their responsibilities?
There are a lot of young parliamentarians, men and women, who are making a difference by proposing new legislation and introducing commitment in highly informed debates. These people have good ideas.
Source: News Week Pakistan