Democracy on Trial
Raza, Moosi, Economic Review
Clouds of uncertainty are looming large over the country. Constitutional controversy, centre-province confrontation and law and order situation are assuming new dimensions. Sensational issues are tried to be settled on streets. These issues were haunting the mind of a peace loving citizen. It was 10 p.m. when Begum Ashraf Abbasi Saheba was contacted on telephone for knowing her views on various national issues. Next morning when we were at her residence, we were informed that she was busy in reciting Holy Quran upstairs. Few minutes later an elderly woman in simple oriental Kurta-Shalwar and Dupatta over her head entered the room in dignified manner. She was having rosary (Tasbih) in her hand, where some more people were waiting. After a brief introduction we were taken to the adjacent room possibly the drawing room, the complexion of which displays the outlook of a house occupied by a middle class family. It was only the security measure outside the residence which disclosed the fact that it was owned by the Deputy Speaker. It might be due to her son Mr. Munawar All Abbasi, Minister for Local Bodies, Sindh, who is also putting up there.
Begum Ashraf Abbasi, Deputy Speaker, National Assembly is a medical Doctor by profession. Her academic career was excellent. Actively participated in the student union activities and elected as Clinical Secretary. Entered in active political mainstream in 1961, Clinical Secretary. Entered in active political mainstream in 1961, she remained close comrade of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and elected as member West Pakistan Assembly in 1962 and 1965. In 1971 she was elected as MNA and served as Deputy Speaker, NA from 1973-77. In March 1977 as MPA Sindh she held the Ministership of Local bodies till July 5, 1977 the day Martial Law took over the reins. Doctor Saheba bravely challenged the tyranny. Imprisonments and atrocities within and outside jail could neither cow-down her valiant struggle nor could arrest her thinking, ambitions and principles. She is a crusader of human rights, democracy and an outstanding social worker. Economic Review interviewed her on various vital issues confronting the nation. Following are the excerpts:
Economic Review. National Assembly is the most dignified forum. The level of discussion is generally considered to be low there. What is the reason and what measures do you suggest for its improvement?
Dr. Ashraf Abbasi. I agree with you that it is the highest forum in the country. I do not think that the level of discussion is below the standard. Sometimes there are out-bursts on certain points. But one should see it in the right perspective. There was no democracy earlier in the country. If the democracy had continued people would have learnt its norms. Politics is a science and one should learn it as a science. Experience comes through established system. The subject could be understood only when there is continuity in democracy. There was no National Assembly so we cannot expect same sort of discussion as there would have been it there had been democracy. As a legislator one has to learn a lot and tolerate a lot which is possible in continuity of democratic systems. In the past, political system have been neglected. Military, civil bureaucracy and judicial institutions had continuity but the political parties were not allowed to function. We the politicians have been thrown out in one or the other way. Sometimes in jails, sometimes here and sometimes there. There is no importance of legislators in the martial law. There should be continuity in the process of democracy in order to establish the systems. We have very talented people. Inshallan by an by we will learn to tolerate each other. Tolerance and discussion through reasoning is the only way of legislation. In democracy you have to give your ear to reason no matter from where it comes.
ER. What are the handicaps in the way of legislation in the National Assembly. …