Punjab Assembly left at mercy of ordinances

Chairpersons for 19 out of 40 standing committees of the provincial assembly have still not been elected

KHALID RASHEED March 16, 2021
Punjab Assembly. PHOTO: APP


The Punjab government’s distrust in the bicameral federal legislature and its lack of majority members in the house has paved way for a new legislative trend.

The provincial parliamentary system has remained fairly in-operational over the course of the last 2.5 years, owing to which the practice of enacting laws through ordinances has become unusually common.

The provincial assembly bypassed the legislative system and passed over 40 ordinances in the last 30 months.

Most recently however, it was the enactment of the local body ordinance which obstructed the holding of the local body elections in Punjab.

According to details, despite the incumbent Punjab government running almost half of its tenure, the parliamentary system is yet to be fully operational.

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The failure to legislate is evident from that fact that chairpersons for the 19 out of 40 standing committees of the provincial assembly have still not been elected.

Moreover, the standing committees which are operational, too have resorted to boycotting the opposition in protest of Hamza Shahbaz’s non-appointment as the Public Accounts Committee Chief.

 As a consequence of which, the said committees have not been holding their meetings; prompting the administration to rely on ordinances instead of legislation to keep running the system of government.

Commenting on the unusual use of ordinances to run government affairs, Punjab Information Secretary and Punjab Assembly Member Azma Bukhari from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), said that the PTI government has been formed by stealing the mandate of PML-N.

 “The PTI MPAs in Punjab assembly have nothing to do and are not serious in conducting any assembly business,” she commented.

 Alleging further, Bukhari also claimed that PTI members in the provincial assembly remain non-participatory in assembly sessions, as a consequence of which the government has not made any serious efforts to legislate and is primarily running on the basis of ordinances.

Per Bukhari, the the government has made no legislation for the welfare of the people of Punjab. Instead, it has only been clearing its name by inaugurating the development projects announced and worked on during the last 10 years of the PML-N government.

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 She further said that the government’s seriousness towards legislation in parliament can be gauged from the fact that so far more than 80 per cent of the sessions of the Punjab Assembly have been convened on the requisitions of PML-N.

The ruling party is not interested in convening sessions, Bukhari alleged, saying that PML-N has taken a record part in the proceedings of the assembly.

“The performance of the Punjab Assembly has not been so good as compared to the past. Several government members remained absent in most assembly sessions which should raise many concerns. PML-N hopes that the coming year will herald the necessary changes in the Punjab Assembly and the seats of government and opposition will be changed. The present government of Punjab is an ordinance government and we will continue to protest against it inside and outside the assembly,” she expressed.

On the other hand, Punjab Law Minister Muhammad Basharat Raja claimed that the PTI government has carried out a record number of legislations in past two-and-a-half years of its service.

 Agreeing that chairpersons of the standing committees could not be appointed in this time, he asserted that special committees have been made functional after the confidence of the assembly speaker, suggesting some kind of a tradeoff.

“2020 was a political hotbed due to Covid19, and yes, overall the performance of the Punjab Assembly has been much better than in the past. But PTI has passed 68 bills in its tenure thus far in addition to a record number of legislations, while only 40 ordinances were implemented. This year, unlike previous governments, we have changed the laws of the 18th-century. We have updated the centuries-old rules of cooperatives and prisons and will continue to do so,” he told The Express Tribune.


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