Bulldozing bills

Opposition’s complaint that parliamentary bills are being bulldozed is pretty justified


June 15, 2021

Dozens in one go: this is how the sitting National Assembly has mostly been passing legislative bills since coming into being in August 2018. Last Thursday, the lower house approved as many as 21 laws, including the controversial Elections (Amendment) Bill 2020 as well as one meant to provide right of appeal to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, amid the opposition’s strong protest and boycott. A few months before that, on February 2, 2021 to be exact, the House was made to give its nod to three bills hurriedly, including one seeking the establishment of CPEC Authority. Similarly, on November 8, 2019, the Assembly passed 11 presidential ordinances within half an hour amid ruckus by opposition members.

The opposition’s complaint that parliamentary bills are being bulldozed is pretty justified. Even key bills of national importance — some of which are mentioned above — are not being debated properly by the elected representatives and passed with national consensus. The persistent acrimony between the government and the opposition has ensured that not even a limited working relationship could be established between the two sides, let alone a harmonious one. Pandemonium is quite a common sight in the lower house, in particular, where the treasury and opposition members are mostly locked in a war of words — in a duel of who can shout louder, and who can come up with a wittier jaw-breaking reply.

The business of legislation has, therefore, immensely suffered due to the bad blood between the two sides of the divide. While the current parliament was a complete non-starter for the first six months of its existence due to a lack of consensus on the formation of House committees, even after that it has failed to function in line with the parliamentary norms and needs. Both sides must keep their egos aside for the sake of a fully functional parliament.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 15h, 2021.

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