- Making the government a target
The sudden postponement of the National Assembly and Senate sessions summoned for Friday, to April 22 and April 25 respectively, creates an unfortunate impression. It is being done, it has been said, to allow the government to introduce an amnesty scheme by presidential ordinance. It is not so much the reason as the manner which shows the contempt towards the legislative branch by the executive. With the Budget just around the corner, the hurry cannot be fathomed, unless benefiting from prior knowledge of the amnesty’s terms is planned. Apart from the reflection on the government’s ability to conduct business, the postponement has been roundly criticised by both the PML-N and the PPP, neither of which have mentioned the inconvenience their members might have suffered after turning up on Friday at short notice to attend sessions of the House, only to learn of the postponement.
The PPP has accused the government of postponing the sessions because it wished to promulgate an ordinance for the scheme. The PML-N says the postponement is to allow the deal with the IMF to be finalised, and to prevent its being discussed in Parliament. In short, both are accusing the government of refusing to bring financial matters before Parliament. That the Prime Minister does not look kindly on parliamentary democracy is known, and he has expressed before his distaste for the ‘talking-shop’ aspect of the legislature. But he should remember that he has been given charge of the Executive Branch precisely because he won control of the Legislative, and thus he must remain answerable to the latter, along with its opposition.
It cannot escape notice that the PTI is coming under criticism for the postponement of sessions at which the Budget was to have been presented. While the Senate does not pass the Budget or any other Money Bill, it does discuss it and it thus is presented there. It is bad enough that it is attempting to rule through ordinance, but that this should extend to Money Bills (such as the amnesty scheme would require), is highly unusual. The Executive is supposed to answer to the Legislative, and this accountability is supposed to be by the former having to approach the latter for funds. The Budget session is meant to be the highlight of the parliamentary year, and is not to be treated so visually.