THE scenes of confusion in this week’s National Assembly were a pitiful but important sign of today’s reality of politics in the region. During Thursday’s session, an enraged opposition and a defiant ruling party locked horns, raising already simmering tensions and once again proving that civility and compromise was impossible on both sides.
During assembly sessions, sloganeering, desk-thumping and yelling are hardly unusual phenomena and have been used by MNAs since the 1990s. However, this same session also featured legislators insulting each other to the point that a scuffle broke out. At one point, as opposition lawmakers assembled before him, the speaker of the Assembly had to be covered by a ring of sergeants-at-arms. Perhaps for the first time in our legislative history, members of the Treasury staged a house walkout after finding out a lack of quorum to keep speeches from being made by opposition lawmakers.As a consequence, the discussion on the bill demanding an open Senate vote appeared inconclusive despite a three-hour session.
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The divisions between the PTI and the opposition parties are plain as usual, but both sides, while by their own proclamations they are cheerleaders of democracy, engage in conduct that damages the political process.
Here, to the degree that no rational dialogue is practicable, the opposition must focus on what it can do by turning up the political temperature in the Legislature. Notwithstanding its declaration of a date for its long march, the PDM needs to be clear about its position. Although it was reported that caravans would march to Islamabad on March 26, no specifics of the Alliance’s policy were shared.
The intention of the PPP to pass a no-confidence vote against the prime minister with the other party leaders is obviously not popular and remains an unresolved sticking point. Yet the coalition is staying together and ostensibly moving its plans forward.What is their main objective, and what can the march realistically accomplish, is the guess of everyone.
Not only in the Legislature, but also in talk shows and on social media, the government is just as responsible for the hysteria. In any platform, it has continuously goaded the opposition and displayed high-handedness and hostility against it. The mechanism is also harmed by its inability to reach out to the opposition for its main responsibility for legislative business.
Sadly, it seems as if in the party this behaviour is promoted and opposition-bashing is the ready reaction to any situation. Sanity must reign, for this bitterness gives the people little relief.
In government ranks, there are a few veteran leaders who have the experience of grappling with such circumstances, and they need to come forward to help cool down the temperature for the sake of pragmatism. Sadly, going by the sound of this week’s Assembly speech by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, such involvement is a distant dream.