Pakistan News

Absent lawmakers

Absent lawmakers

The title of chief whip may sound impressive. The term conjures up the image of someone in control, sternly directing a group of charges through an assignment that has to be completed within a stipulated time.

Unlike, of course, Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, the gentleman unfortunately in charge of ensuring attendance by the PML-N members in the National Assembly.

Having been held accountable repeatedly by so many over his party’s ever-playing-truant MNAs, the PML-N’s chief whip surrendered before the deputy last Monday.

Read: Minister ‘helpless’ to ensure NA attendance

He said he was helpless when it came to bringing the treasury benchers to the house in reasonable numbers and he proposed to the deputy speaker — without his sentiments being reciprocated — that the matter should be taken up with the prime minister.

The latter is another honourable member not particularly known for wasting time in and on parliament.

Let’s be fair to our lawmakers. They need days off and away just as does everyone else. There would be issues close to their heart which they would want to debate passionately in parliament and then there would be matters that they won’t quite fancy.

But in Pakistan’s case, as has been pointed out by repeated calls for attendance by the legislators, it is far more serious than just a matter of a few of them having wandered away at the same time by coincidence.

There seems to be almost an institutionalised effort to set a tradition that encourages members to stay away from the proceedings of the house. The most important issues are settled by the most important people outside parliament. Even in the presence of all kinds of watchdogs who point out which legislator did what and when, the message that comes across is that parliament is a good place in which to while away one’s time, so long as no better option is available. That better option could mean anything from a personal engagement to an official meeting which will not be, cannot be, put off simply on the request of a mere chief whip. As always, the top leadership must intervene.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2015

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