House of the people

The state and its elected and non-elected cohorts engage in a seemingly endless tussle of coming up trumps

July 12, 2021

Pakistan has a unique knack for perching itself at self-contradictory crossroads. The state and its elected and non-elected cohorts, who make decisions for its large swathe of ‘unruly’ commons, are engaged in a seemingly endless tussle of coming up trumps. That it comes at the cost of the continuing suffering of the masses speaks of the disconnect between the ruling elite and the public. The assemblies — the custodians of the collective will of the public — appear to be steeped in self-preservation or largely watching the paint dry on another five-year term. Public good be damned.

Recently the government attempted to push through a seemingly critical bill that addressed domestic violence. The bill aimed at safeguarding women from domestic abuse. Ramrodded through the lower house within a day, the bill came unstuck in the Senate where the opposition voted in favour of referring it to the relevant committee for debate. An opposition lawmaker argued that a bill she had introduced over a year ago on the same topic had been quietly moved off the agenda.

And another spanner seems to have been thrown in the works. This one by the PM’s Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs, Dr Babar Awan who has written to the Speaker to refer the bill criminalising domestic abuse to the Council of Islamic Ideology. The process is likely to further delay the bill, not to mention that past reviews of similar bills by the council have resulted in recommendations that have been panned by critics and rights activists. It seems our lawmaking process is either completely dysfunctional with an overabundance of stakeholders having opposing views or prefers only solo flights. Neither is conducive to providing relief to the public.

The emergence of a video this week of a couple being harassed in their rented apartment is a testament to how weak the system has become — law or not. It is time for all those representing voices of our millions to come together and really look at the issues impacting the commons and solve them through concerted lawmaking and implementation.


Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2021.

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