by Karl Kurtz
For more years than I wish to count, I have often concluded my speeches with an inspirational message about the role of legislatures in a democracy by showing this photo:
I first saw (and inexpertly photographed) this sign, which reads "Povo sem parlamento é povo escravo" in Portuguese, in front of the Rio Grande do Sul [state] Legislative Assembly building in Porto Alegre, Brazil nearly 20 years ago. Literally translated, it means "People without parliament are people in chains." For me it captures one of the key missions of legislatures all over the world: To protect the rights and freedoms of the people.
Now, courtesy of the unlikely source of a party leader in Pakistan, I have a new tag line to add to my repertoire: "Parliament is mother of all institutions." The president of Awami National Party (ANP), Asfandyar Wali Khan, recently made this statement to explain why his party would not take part in any efforts to remove the Pakistani government. He went on to say, "...[A]ll the state institutions derived strength from the parliament" and "...we all have to accept this reality that parliament was the base of state institutions."
I love the image of legislatures as the mother of all governmental institutions. It's a bit like saying that Congress is (or state legislatures are) the first branch of government because the legislative article is first in the U.S. Constitution and most state constitutions--but it's a more colorful and evocative phrase.