They say that university life is the best time of your life. It is a time when you are in charge, without a single worry about what life is about to throw at you after graduation. You get to hang out with friends a lot and do whatever you like. I do realise that not everyone may agree with this notion, but I do think that university time was just perfect. Well, almost perfect. Why the ‘almost’? Because there was this one dreadful thing that every student had to go through: class participation (CP). CP is the contribution that a student makes by speaking and adding to the topic of conversation in a classroom full of students. Marked CP was the worst. Not everybody had the courage to speak in front of so many people and, to be honest, most of the time we did not have anything relevant to contribute. But then there were some smart kids, or as I called them, over-smart kids. They would utter not a single word throughout the course, but on the last session of the course, they would simply not shut up – throwing every piece of irrelevant and un-researched information at the instructor, hoping that they will make up for all the sessions they were quiet in.
The recently conducted joint session of Parliament reminded me of something similar. For over three years, our government has resorted to presidential ordinances rather than following the proper rules of making laws in the parliament and then one fine day the government passes more than 60 bills. The manner in which so many bills were passed was nothing but a mockery of the parliament. It was quite obvious that the government does not care about following the proper procedures and just wanted to increase the count of bills to be passed. Most of the bills were not referred to the sub-committees and no debate was held over them. What is being termed by the government as its “great victory” is merely a desperate attempt to make up for all the lost opportunities over three years – just as the students did in the last session of their course.
Let us consider some other characteristics of an over-smart kid. An over-smart kid would never stay true to his words. He would judge the situation and then completely change his stance if it suits him, throwing all the principles in the trash bin. Our government is a treasure trove of such over-smart kids. One day you will see senior ministers accusing certain groups of RAW-sponsored terrorism and extremism, next day you will see them garlanding the same people with flowers. Furthermore, in the joint session it was initially decided not to present the bill that called for electronic voting machines (EVMs) to be used in the elections, but a few moments later that bill passed in the parliament amidst much cheering from the government benches.
A bill regarding giving the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis was also passed in the joint session. Taken on face value it might seem like a good decision by expanding the domain of voting rights, but is it really as simple and easy as the government portrays it to be? Let us assume that one Mr AJ, a dual-national overseas Pakistani living in Minnesota, USA, gets the right to vote. Now Mr AJ has been living in the US for the past 40 years. He rarely visits Pakistan and belongs to Okara. How will Mr AJ vote? What stake does Mr AJ really have in the constituency that he is voting for, given that he rarely visits? Is he voting because he needs to get the roads built in Okara or does he need MNAs and MPAs to represent the overseas Pakistanis in the parliament? Since development in his local constituency will not have any effect on his life, we can assume that he needs representatives to represent his actual constituency, the overseas Pakistanis. Dual citizenship holders are not eligible to become members of the parliament. Then how can Mr AJ rely on any individual residing in Pakistan to represent him in the parliament? Since Mr AJ is a dual citizenship holder, he cannot run for political office. How can he then vote for politicians in Pakistan? These and a number of other questions have taken birth and the government has still not been able to provide satisfactory answers. You see, this is the difference between a smart and an over-smart kid. A smart kid would do his homework as compared to an over-smart kid who would just try to get things done without thinking them through.
Last but not the least is the quality of an over-smart kid to pin blame on others while playing the victim card. Something similar happened when some ministers of the government distorted the sentences of the senior journalist Najam Sethi, accusing him of inciting violence, while the government’s own ministers have been publically threatening opposition parties of violence if they dare enter the capital.
The problem is that when kids get too smart, they become a danger to themselves and when politicians start acting over-smart, they become a threat for the entire country. This is exactly what is happening with our government. They might think that they will get away with every action that they take, but every move they make will one day haunt them. Shutting up journalists by calling their credibility and integrity into question or ‘tricking’ the opposition into getting bills passed in the assemblies is not a sign of a smart or clever government. It is a sign that the government itself is desperate and is trying to use every trick in the book to maintain its façade of credibility and authority.
And so, it is high time that the government stops acting like some over-smart kids, and plays its actual role with maturity and sensibility.