MONDAY, the 12th August marked the completion of first parliamentary year of the incumbent National Assembly which brought Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on the treasury whilst PML (N) and the PPP on the opposition benches as a result of general election held last year.Running the affairs of the House in a smooth and conducive manner is undoubtedly collective and shared responsibility of both the treasury and opposition benches. Therefore the onus of any successes or failures lies on both. But what an ordinary person has witnessed over the last one year is that the bitterness between both the treasury and opposition benches is on the surge which is badly affecting the working of the Lower House. A number of sittings were marred by ruckus due to the tense atmosphere, with members even came to blows on a number of occasions, forcing the Speaker to abruptly adjourn the sittings. The primary work of the assembly is to do legislation for the welfare of the masses but what has transpired in the last year is that the House has become a battleground which is creating problems for the government itself to do legislation. In the month of May, the government had introduced a very important package of legal reforms which included bills such as Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill, the Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission Act, Women’s Property Rights Act and the Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Act but no progress apparently has been made to get them passed first from the Standing Committees and then the Assembly. Present Assembly passed a total of ten bills during its first year. Three of these were either supplementary finance bills or the finance bill. The only significant bill passed during the year was the 26th Constitutional Amendment Bill which proposed to increase the number of seats from erstwhile FATA in the National Assembly and the KP Assembly, but it has not come into effect since the Senate is yet to approve the bill with a two-thirds majority. A cautious review indicates that the overall performance of the current National Assembly is not much different from the previous ones. Then, Prime Minister Imran Khan had in fact a good beginning by announcing that he will personally respond to the queries of the members during Question Hour but bringing changes in the rules and procedures for that purpose are meeting the same delay as has been witnessed in the legislation. It is time both for treasury and opposition benches to do some serious retrospection and instead of resorting to insults and slurs, they should focus on making the proceedings of the House more productive and meaningful as after all millions of rupees from the national exchequer are being spent on them. Opposition should fully support the government in getting passed the legal reforms package as truly it is aimed at providing much needed relief to the poor and marginalized segments of the society. We hope the legislatures make the second year different from the first one by improving the environment inside the House and focusing more on representing aspirations of the people. This is the course that will go a long way in strengthening democracy in the country.
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