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Coronavirus
LOW Source: covid.gov.pk
Pakistan Deaths
28,761
824hr
Pakistan Cases
1,286,453
43124hr
0.98% positivity
Sindh
476,494
Punjab
443,379
Balochistan
33,491
Islamabad
107,848
KPK
180,254

EDITORIAL: With doubts about PTI’s (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s) numerical superiority where it matters being settled with its victory in the joint session, whether or not the passage of record 33 bills on Wednesday was also a victory for democracy is now the main question. That, and what chances the opposition now has of mounting a legal challenge to some of the bills passed, of course. The opposition seemed to be gathering impressive momentum when it was able to torpedo two government bills in the National Assembly shortly before the first call for the joint session was cancelled last week, but it had effectively lost the plot, so to speak, when the PM personally cajoled PTI’s allies into partaking in his political ‘jihad’. So there were no surprises, really, in Thursday morning’s headlines.

This should settle a number of questions for the time being and there should be less gossip in Islamabad about the curtain falling on the government very soon. But has the pendulum of perception in circles that really matter also swung in favour of the ruling party? It’s no secret that the timing of the joint session and the haste with which it was bulldozed through the house has left a number of critics of the present system feeling vindicated about the parallels they had drawn with the change of guard, in a very few days, in very powerful corridors in and near the federal capital. Besides, even though whether or not Wednesday’s rush infringed upon constitutional restraints remains to be seen, surely there’s no denying that it was an affront to the true spirit of representative and democratic government.

Wasn’t it Prime Minister Imran Khan who crusaded against just such practices during his long years in opposition, insisting upon the desperate need to instill Westminster style practices in our democratic practices? Shouldn’t the said bills have been exhaustively debated in parliament before going to the upper house, and shouldn’t the joint session have been called only if, as the constitution mandates, there was a deadlock after all the back and forth movement? As things stand, PTI’s spokespersons have been given a shot in the arm for their exchanges with the opposition in talk shows, but beyond that what happened on Wednesday was only more of the same kind of politics that Imran Khan vowed to change when he came to power. That is why someone should also look into just what was offered to coalition partners that made them change their minds in such a hurry, without which none of what happened would have been possible.

All this commotion has also thrown the matter of validity of electronic voting machines, among so many other things, away from the public radar. That could be problematic in the future because there’s no telling yet if they are fool-proof and will really serve the purpose of ensuring free, fair and transparent elections. It would be a shame if this particular matter is not settled before the country plunges into the next election campaign. It seems bills like the one providing for castration of habitual rapists will also run into some trouble, because there’s already disapproval from some religious parties about it not exactly being shariah compliant.

For now, though, all the opposition can do is raise objections inside parliament, which are sure to be struck down by the rather partisan nature of the exercise. The option of knocking on the doors of the honourable courts is also far from clear, since the judiciary has ruled in the past that parliamentary disputes should be settled within the house. The one sure takeaway from the joint session, then, is that the ruling party will sit comfortably in Islamabad for now; at least till another crisis makes an unwelcome appearance.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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