Do the in-camera meetings make democracy a fiend? | Pakistan Today

Do the in-camera meetings make democracy a fiend?

The in-camera meetings of the parliamentary committees are usually despised for being undemocratic as the decisions made there help conceal vital information from media and consequently from the people whom the parliament is supposed to represent, besides expressing distrust in them as well.
The fiend of in-camera meetings is not a new phenomenon in the third world countries, and even in some of the developed parts of the world, but it intrinsically remains undemocratic as it amounts to be self-denial of the democratic norms of public representation. The trend, which can also be described as culture of aloofness, is on the rise after the present government came into power.
It was a different case under Musharraf regime during which as the parliament was not supreme at all and the general was the ultimate figure to be reverted to, if any decision of significance were to be taken. The inability of the parliament at that time was understandable as it had to work under the suzerainty of a military dictator. But the practice by the present government is quite unbecoming, as the number of in-camera meetings of the standing committees, if statistics are to be reckoned with, would be more than that of the previous government.
All meetings of the Implementation Commission on the 18th Amendment were held in-camera and media was briefed only at the end, containing only insignificant things. When the commission was overseeing the implementation of devolution, a number of labour unions had severely criticised it as they did not know what decisions were being made about the fate of the government employees. The case of the standing committees on defence and foreign affairs, both of the National Assembly and the Senate, provide a glaring example of the repeated exercise of in-camera sessions. The Special Committee on Law and Order Situation in Karachi and Balochistan also decided Tuesday to hold all meetings in-camera.
The culture of in-camera meeting certainly cast doubts on the democratic credentials of political parties in general and the PPP in particular.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the executive director of Pakistan Institute of
Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), when contacted for comments, lamented that the number of in-camera sessions of the parliamentary bodies had increased considerably during the PPP-led government.
“All meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (the body which drafted the bill of the 18 Amendment), Implementation
Commission on Devolution and Parliamentary Committee on National Security were held in-camera”, Mehboob said, adding that most of the Defence and foreign affairs committees’ meetings also remained in-camera. He further added that two or three meetings, given the sensitivity of the matter at hand, could be justified but it was self-defeating if all gatherings were held in-camera.
He said the constitutional reforms bill, prepared by the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional, was also passed in haste and not even a single clause was discussed in the parliament.



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