Government’s unconstitutional ways


There is a perennial complaint that the PML-N legislators, including the ministers, frequently dodge the NA sittings. On Thursday, however, the party whip had managed to herd together sufficient number of party MNAs to steamroller the opposition. The House passed six bills in one sitting including the two controversial bills, one for the conversion of the PIA into a public company and another for whitening the black money up to Rs50 million by payment of 1 percent tax. Violating the parliamentary procedure additional agenda was introduced giving the opposition a surprise. The opposition protested strongly, staging a walk-out. In their absence the Speaker put the bills to vote and declared them passed.

The tendency to bypass the opposition in legislation is against the spirit of democracy. In a democratic system the opposition’s views are given due respect and efforts made to create a consensus. Equally important is to follow the parliamentary procedures even if they cause delays. It appears that the government had given an undertaking to the IMF to privatise the PIA come what may by a certain date. Similarly, failing to improve the working of the FBR, the government was finding it difficult to meet its revenue target. In view of the PMLN’s soft corner for the trading community, which happens to be the major tax dodger, the government decided to allow it whitening the black money up to a certain limit. This amounts to depending on quick fixes instead of institutional reforms.

The NA provides every member the opportunity to point out what he considers the flaws in the government’s policy. This discourages the opposition from seeking extra-constitutional remedies to what it perceives to be flaws in the government policies. In case the government continues to take recourse to bulldozing, the opposition might be forced one day to take recourse to street protests. It is in the interest of the government to avoid measures that may lead to a repetition of last year’s agitation initiated by the PTI and PAT.