Today morning, our National Assembly broke out into a fish market.
Speaker Asad Qaiser faced a hard time in the National Assembly when he was first attacked by the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for not issuing a production order for former president Asif Zardari and then PTI members kept interrupting Shahbaz Sharif from addressing the parliament.
This led to the Speaker, who was visibly angry, was forced to adjourn the National assembly
Not allowing a child into the assembly
A two month ago, Mahjabeen Sheran, a legislator in Balochistan assembly, was asked to leave the chamber for bringing her unwell child.
On April 29, Sheran was criticized by staff and fellow members of the assembly for bringing her seven-month-old son, who was sick and could not be left at home, to the chamber for a session. She was asked to leave the session. This started a new debate that led to the Balochistan assembly being the first assembly in the country to have a daycare center. At least something good out of this.
I graduated from university a couple of months ago. Within university, if we missed more than a certain amount of classes, we would get kicked out of that class. By the looks of the way our assemblies function, we might have to implement this policy to ensure that people actually show up. The average attendance per sitting of National Assembly (NA) legislators declined by 13% over the last five years.
The annual average attendance per sitting declined from 222 (65%) legislators during the first year to 193 (56%) legislators during the fifth year. Similarly, session-wise attendance average fell from 311 (91%) per sitting during the first session in June 2013 to 192 (56%) in the last NA session that was prorogued in March 2018. High attendance is only noticed when the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister are in attendance. Many like to point out that the Prime Minister has more things to do, but look at the British parliament. Not only is attendance high for all members, the Prime Minister attends has often as she can.
While abuses are not allowed within the Parliament themselves, many different members have decided that this was the best time to fight against the other side. There was that time Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza and an MQM MPA had a fight. It was rude, and intense, but no action was taken after it.
Or the time Khwaja Asif called Shireen Mazari a “Tractor trolley”. These type of abuses are usually expunged, but do not result within the removal of the member. Which seems a bit odd, given how much of an offence it is compared to bringing your sick child to work!
Let’s not forgot the time a member of the assembly took his time to give a speech against Imran Khan. There is nothing wrong with critiquing an individual. But to waste your time on the floor of our legislature with abuses and humour is pretty disrespectful to the building these people are lucky enough to be a member of.
If that weren’t enough, physical fights have broken out a ton of times. The most popular one has been that time members from the PML-N and the PTI got into a fist fight.
Then there was that time the PML-N and MQM got into a fight in 2011. Both did not lead to anyone being punished in anyway. The speakers of the house yelled and screamed, dismissed the assembly for the break but did nothing to the people involved. This is pretty disrespectful to the legislature, the building where our laws are supposed to be debated and made. But apparently not as disrespectful as bringing your sick child apparently.
Not knowing what is going on
In 2014, Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani did had no idea what Cyclone Nilofer was. For those who do not know, Cyclone Nilofer was one of the more dangerous cyclones faced by the coastal city of Karachi. It was all over the news. Yet, when the lawmaker asked about the measures taken in this regard, Speaker Agha asked who this women “Nilofar” was. When the lawmaker insisted that the House should know of the safety measures taken in this regard, the Speaker assured her that nothing could harm Karachi as long as Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s tomb was near the sea. The fact that the speaker did not know what was going on within his own city, and when informed, chooses to dismiss is a clear violation of the code of conduct. However, he remained until the end of his term. No punishment for not knowing his work. This may seem funny, but safety measures during natural disasters save lives, and to joke about them is dangerous. But that’s fine, as long as he didn’t bring his child.
Bowing down to pressure tactics
Part of the parliament and these assemblies is to represent the legislature of the state. It needs to stand strong and with its members. When challenged, the government is not supposed to buckle down under the pressure. However, during the Faizabad sit-in, our legislature was ready let the TLP pressurize them into turning on one of their own. They watched as Law Minister Zahid Hamid was forced to hand in resignation to “steer the country out of the prevailing critical situation.” That is the honour and fraternity our assemblies displayed, to let one of them suffer. And for some reason, that is fine. But bringing your baby is not.