Dysfunctional Parliament

By Taha Kehar | April 2020

Book Title : The Parliament of Pakistan: A History of Institution-Making and (Un) democratic Practices, 1971-1977
Author    : Mahboob Hussain
Publisher  : OUP
Pages    : 306
Price    : Rs. 995

Fhroughout Pakistan’s political history, the role of the parliament has been thwarted by recurring autocratic tendencies. Over the last seven decades, parliamentary proceedings have been undermined by the machinations of the civil-military bureaucracy and the failure to uphold civilian democracy. Though it remains the country’s law-making body, it has often been billed as a seemingly dysfunctional institution that lacks effective control.

From February 2008, Pakistan has made a crucial transition towards a democratic order. The path towards a fully-functioning democracy has been a particularly difficult one. Amid these challenges, political experts and practitioners need to examine the country’s political history so as to understand the roots of the democratic order envisioned for Pakistan.

Mahboob Hussain’s ‘The Parliament of Pakistan: A History of Institution-Making and (Un)democratic Practices, 1971-1977’ offers useful insights that could assist experts and practitioners in this intellectual endeavour.

According to Hussain, historiographers in Pakistan haven’t placed any emphasis on understanding the formation and working of parliament as a state institution. He argues that “without studying the institution of the parliament, which is the mother institution in any parliamentary democracy, many dimensions of Pakistan’s political history cannot be understood”.

With its observations on the history, working and functioning of the parliament in the 1970s, Hussain’s book provides readers with a much-needed overview of the challenges faced by the first directly-elected parliament of Pakistan. The author, who is an associate professor at the Department of History and Pakistan Studies at Punjab University, is well-placed to comment on the matter and succeeds in illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of the institution with clarity.

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