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November 17, 2019

Confidence in democracy

Editorial

 
November 17, 2019

With the end of the deadlock between the government and the opposition in the National Assembly, our political parties have shown that they have confidence in democracy. The PTI-led government has withdrawn 11 bills, and the opposition has taken back the no-confidence motion it had tabled against the deputy speaker. It is heartening to see that both sides displayed a commitment to democracy and as goodwill gestures accommodated each other’s concerns. The government’s announcement to undo legislative business, which had resulted in the passage of 11 bills in a day, is a welcome move that indicates a rare shift in attitude in the treasury benches. The speaker’s chamber was the centre of hectic activities on Friday where a rare consensus was developed for the first time after the PTI government assumed power 15 months ago. We had not seen such willingness to listen to each other in over a year now.

For smooth functioning of the National Assembly, and for strengthening democracy in the country, it is of vital importance that such consensus building becomes a regular feature for legislation, the primary task of the lower house. We have seen that rather than conducting discussions and holding meetings of standing committees to debate the proposed bills, the assembly members tend to use the house as an arena to hurl accusations at each other. Since there are many new entrants in the assembly, especially from the PTI side, many of them appear to be oblivious of the decorum of the House. It is up to senior politicians to initiate and lead conciliatory measure within the House and in the meetings of the standing committees.

The opposition had rightly protested against the passage of the bills when deputy speaker Qasim Suri was in the chair. Amid protests from the opposition parties, the bills were carried through without any discussion. Even then, an editorial this newspaper had expressed concerns at the way the government had violated all parliamentary norms. Now, all the bills will be taken up again for discussion within the House or would be referred to the respective standing committees. From the opposition, Khawaja Asif also deserves appreciation for his constructive role in the process of first submitting the no-confidence move, and then also in its withdrawal after the government relented.

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