ISLAMABAD: The PTI government’s first six months have seen the assembly tackling issues of the quorum and other disputes, but no effective lawmaking. Even a private bill put forward by a treasury MNA to extend the alcohol ban to non-Muslims could not gain traction. During the first five months, the government has had to face extreme difficulty in the formation of standing committees and the Public Accounts Committee.
Meanwhile, in a surreal moment, Prime Minister Imran Khan – the leader of the house – suggested that lawmaking should be done through ordinances which bypass the house which he leads. Law Minister Farogh Naseem then supported Imran Khan’s statement, before Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Muhammad Khan stepped up to clarify that it was just a political statement.
From August, when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government took charge, till the end of 2018, six sessions of the upper house and seven sessions of the lower house were held along with one joint-sitting. However, in both houses, lawmaking was minimal at best. NA Speaker Asad Qaiser went all in to ensure that the PAC and law and justice standing committees were formed, but other committees still face delays.
At the same time, in the face of a strong united opposition in the current parliament and the ensuing mudslinging between the treasury and opposition, the formation of an ethics committee has also been unanimously approved.
Recently, The Express Tribune asked members of the government and the opposition to explain why the government has so far only gotten three bills through the Senate and five approved by the National Assembly when the most basic duty of parliament is lawmaking,
Senator Raza Rabbani, a former chairman of the upper house, said the government’s policies are still not clear, explaining that it took five months to form standing committees, and no lawmaking can take place till the committees are formed. “The opposition is ready to cooperate on legislative business, but the government itself isn’t serious.”
He opined that the current government does not have an understanding of governance and lacks faith in parliament. The veteran Pakistan People’s Party leader also said that the government that spoke of exposing the opposition is only exposing itself.
“The government should name any one piece of legislation it has brought forward which has been rejected by the opposition,” he added.
On Prime Minister Imran’s statement on lawmaking through ordinances, Rabbani said the premier seems to be unfamiliar with the Constitution and Article 89, which governs the use of ordinances.
Senate Standing Committee for Interior Chairman Rehman Malik said that legislation is the standard by which any government’s performance is measured. “The pace with which this government is moving, it will hardly be able to pass 15 to 20 pieces of legislation.” The former interior minister also said that the government will have to follow parliamentary rules and regulations.
Former information minister Pervaiz Rashid said that the current government has not done any homework on lawmaking, adding that it is necessary for the government to have good relations with its coalition partners, which PTI does not have. “The government must also have a working relationship with the opposition. This government, however, holds governance in low regard.”
On the premier’s statement of lawmaking through ordinances, the senior PML-N leader said that if this is what the PM wants, he may also “kindly put locks on this parliament as well.”
He added that he has not seen any “good bill” presented by the government as of yet.
Senate Standing Committee for Law and Justice Chairman Javed Abbasi criticised the government, saying that under the rules of business, the premier had to form standing committees within one month of taking the oath of office. He said it was unfortunate that parliamentary panels were still incomplete, adding that the PM is not fulfilling his responsibilities as he has only come to the Senate once, and the highlight of ‘business’ in the lower house has been walk-outs staged due to ministers’ failure to attend sessions. “The finance minister had to present the finance bill to the Senate after presenting it to National Assembly, but even this was not done,” he added.
“The PTI government is unfamiliar with the workings of the government and appears uninterested in learning”, he claimed.
On lawmaking through ordinances, the PML-N senator said that there should be privilege motion against the law minister, adding that lawmaking through ordinances is a mockery of democracy.
When Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan, was asked about the government’s achievements so far, he quoted a famous couplet, “This love story has just started, so why do you cry; just wait and see what is to come.”
He admitted that committee formation was a problem and gave the example of the PAC, where he said both parties were too rigid in their stances regarding Shehbaz Sharif chairing the committee. “But then, in one week…[many] committees were ready,” he said adding that the pace of legislation will pick up once all the committees are made.
He said PM Imran will come to parliament and assured that the government will be active in crafting new legislation. “In every meeting, bills will be brought forward.
Whether a minister, a treasury member or an opposition member puts forward a bill that is for the welfare of the people, the government will welcome it because if a bill is intended to help the people, it should not matter if the government or opposition tabled it.”