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August 9, 2020

Legislators and the law

Editorial

 
August 9, 2020

We have always suspected that our legislators do not always read the material placed before them with any degree of care or careful consideration. This appears to be true even with the material is a bill with potentially significant impact. Members of the Punjab Assembly belonging to all major parties are now opposing a bill they had passed unanimously just two weeks ago, and which they likely failed to read properly. The 'Tahaffuz Bunyad-e-Islam Bill' was passed by the House on July 22; among other things, it envisages the approval of all published material notably on religious issues by the DGPR. A letter has already been sent in, signed by hundreds of members of society from all sects asking why one bureaucrat should be permitted to determine what is acceptable and what is not.

The Punjab law minister has said that following the approval he had noted the objections and the bill has not been sent to the Governor for signing into law. There is also some controversy over how the bill was tabled. Lawmakers allege they were kept in the dark about the document before being asked to vote on it. Lawmakers including ministers who conceded they had not read the content asked if the bill had obtained cabinet’s approval. The Speaker of the Punjab Assembly Ch Pervez Elahi was reported to be one of the people who played a part in drafting the bill.

This however is not the point. The question is how can we have any faith in the lawmakers we elect if they are not even willing to perform their primary duty of reading draft bills before they are passed into law. Stating that this bill could create sectarian disharmony in the country after persons outside the Assembly had raised objections to its passage simply highlights the degree of incompetence and lack of concern for the important task they are performing. Naturally any sensitive matter should be discussed either before the cabinet or in a committee and then in the House itself. In this case there was total negligence in following this procedure. Steps need to be taken by all parties to ensure this does not happen again. Had the bill been passed onto the governor many more complications could have arisen. The representatives we elect must consider their responsibilities more gravely and remember the decisions they make have an impact on all the people of the province. Apart from that, we do hope to see more of such collective sense as was exhibited by the members in the House the other day.