A speaker in a parliamentary system of governance is one of the most significant figures. No doubt before being elected as a speaker, a member of the parliament has certain political views and enjoys his affiliation to one political party or another. Nevertheless, it is thought that the moment a speaker takes his oath, he must abide by the constitution and parliamentary rules — and not allow his political affiliation to stand in the way. He must set his interests aside, leave his political connections behind, and be an unprejudiced presiding officer.
A difficult job, indeed. Human beings have preconceived notions and prejudices, and they becloud their judgments.
Democracy dies in darkness when it’s pillar, the parliament, is held hostage by a speaker. The speaker’s role is to preside and supervise and not impose his will in the assembly. In this light, therefore, it can safely be said that former speaker Asad Qaiser and former deputy speaker Qasim Suri acted as puppets to their political master. They stooped too low to prove their loyalties to Imran Khan.
Under the parliamentary norms, they were not accountable to him. Nor were they subservient to him. He might be the head of the political party they were connected to, but they couldn’t trifle with the constitution and parliamentary rules at any cost. In paying reverence to Imran Khan, they made a mockery of their roles as speakers.
Asad Qaiser allowed filibustering in the National Assembly to keep Imran Khan out of troubled waters – when Pakistan’s democracy was hanging by a thread; people were glued to TV and mobile screens waiting for the political soap opera to end.
The fact of the matter is that Asad Qaiser and Qasim Suri transgressed their authority, thus violating their oath to the constitution. Posterity will not forgive them.
Asad Qaiser was visibly tormented when he came for the last time to chair the National Assembly. In his frustration, he hurled abuses at a journalist. To not become a contemnor, who disrespected the Supreme Court order and not to attract Article 6 of the Constitution, he became a scapegoat. He resigned 15 minutes before the clock struck midnight. Taking the mantle, Acting Speaker Ayaz Sadiq praised him, instead of criticizing him for taking sides.
Similarly, Qasim Suri defended the indefensible. He made an impassioned speech before the election of the new prime minister. His voice was shaking with emotions. He waved the same letter that created a political havoc in Pakistan. His rage knew no bounds. He thundered. To him, his leader was above board. He got off the chair and asked Ayaz Sadiq to assume charge.
Leaders who encourage blind following in their ranks lead their followers to believe in extraordinary things. The diehard followers find themselves in such a frame of mind that they can’t distinguish between falsehoods, half-truths, and truth. Their leader becomes infallible to them.
With their eyes shut, they follow their leaders irrationally. When they climb up the ladder to reach the upper echelons of the party to occupy offices of crucial significance, they are ready to go to any extent to hold allegiance to their party leader.
The fact of the matter is that Asad Qaiser and Qasim Suri transgressed their authority, thus violating their oath to the constitution. Posterity will not forgive them. Their controversial roles in letting the country slide down the hill will be judged by historians. While Molvi Tamizuddin is remembered for his commitment to democracy, parliamentary sovereignty and supremacy of the constitution, Qasim Suri and Asad Qaiser’s names will be associated with those who make no bones about trampling upon the constitution to be in their political masters’ good books.
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He tweets @zaeem8825. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.