Disregard for the House


At least someone took notice

Considering how ministers have treated the Assembly this term, it was only a matter of time before some feather broke the camel’s back and somebody, somewhere took notice. The feather turned out to be the usual odd question that required, of course, the relevant minister. But, interestingly, the camel turned out to be Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, who apparently had ‘had enough’ and took the unusual step of suspending question hour before giving some of those responsible a piece of his mind. The ‘defaulters’, apparently, have been given a ‘last chance’.

It will not be too long, of course, before the effectiveness or otherwise of the speaker’s threat becomes apparent. But if precedent is anything to go by, he might well be among those most surprised if his measured dose indeed pulls ministers back to the House. What the press is calling ‘minister absenteeism and bureaucratic disregard’ for the National Assembly is, in fact, text-book N-league posturing. The ‘disregard’ for the House goes all the way up to the prime minister and his do-it-all kitchen cabinet. And, unfortunately, neither threats nor promises have worked before.

In the not so distant past, when even senior government ministers feared being ousted by the dharna and the prime minister called the joint session, there were assurances that the habit of ignoring the House would end. But the ruling party was back to its old ways as soon as the threat was removed. So much so that Aitzaz – who articulated PPP’s support to PML-N in dharna times – lashed out in the Senate, going so far as threatening no support in future unless the government took the House seriously. How that worked out is no secret. But the government will realise, sooner or later, that its attitude and body language, especially with regard to institutions just like parliament, has gone a long way in eroding its democratic credentials. And the sooner it realises the better.