The National Assembly met for only 108 sittings against the 130 required by its Rules of Procedure. When it did meet, it was only for an average of three hours
Democracy is good for Pakistan provided it delivers on the mission assigned to it by demo. If two years on the present National Assembly of Pakistan has delivered even half of what ideally it should have, from the citizens perspective the answer is a big ‘no’.
Thanks to the close monitoring of its performance by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) during its second year performance of the National Assembly is declined, albeit ‘marginally’, over the previous.
During this year it received an overall score of 48 percent in an evaluation of its performance based on a framework developed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), says the PILDAT report, adding that except for the prime minister’s comparatively more visits it ‘declined on all indicators’. On average, it met only for three hours when it did meet, and there too it met only for 108 sittings against 130 required by its Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business.
It passed only 8 bills – surrendering space to the Presidential Ordinances – as against 11 in the previous year, which is a 75 percent decline compared to the last National Assembly’s performance. Given that it did not pass any Private Member Bill, as per last year, fewer such bills were introduced, snuffing out spirit to introduce new thinking and innovative ideas for legislation.
The PILDAT report is particularly disturbed over the National Assembly’s reluctance to be accountable to the people who elected them to sit in deep revolving chairs under the twinkling dome and make laws for their welfare and betterment. “Under this aspect, the National Assembly has received a low score of 38 percent, and has dropped by 3 percentage points from the 5-year average” of the last National Assembly.
On average even its best attended sessions were never above 43 percent of the total attendance. Then there is also erosion of parliamentary oversight over the Executive and its reduced focus on budget.
How come then there is invariably so much of a fierce no-holds-barred tussle to get elected as member of the National Assembly, but once elected to be nothing more than yes-man of the party leaders and through them of the Executive, with few exceptions in exchange of personal gains.
What is expected of the National Assembly the IPU sets the benchmark: “A democratic parliament is representative of the political will and social diversity of the population, and is effective in its legislative and effective oversight over the Executive, and at national and international level. It is transparent, accessible, and accountable to the citizens that it represents”.
Regretfully, the National Assembly ‘continues to flout the universal standards of openness and transparency in this regard’, says the PILDAT report. And for this below-average performance and grudgingly practiced opaqueness this National Assembly, like most of its predecessors, has failed the nation by its lack of success in updating the colonial vintage legal system to fulfil the needs of present times.
Either there is unavailability of relevant law or the ones available have restricted jurisdiction, thus being unable to meet the ends of justice and fair play. Consequently, the ordinances have to be kept alive by repeated extensions. A lack of comprehensive debate and discussion on draft bills on the floor of the house is another problem with the present National Assembly.
On the other hand, the easy way out, often by agreements by both sides of the aisle, is passing the buck to the committees. And then what these committees determine is legislated without debate in the house – and the outcome can be as debatable as the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment which in itself has been amended to harmonise with ground realities.
Likewise, by withholding information on the performance of the members on individual basis – in terms of their attendance, their contribution to debate and discussion on the floor of the assembly and their persona in the frame of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution – the National Assembly appears to be running afoul of the IPU standards.
But that said one would be still very reluctant to raise hand in favour of one-man show in the country. Pakistan has no future without democracy; period.
Source: Business Recorder