The Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Bill, 2016, proposes the creation of a fact-finding commission to probe the Panamagate scandal, a bill that the ruling party wants to pass so bad, it extended the session of the National Assembly to Wednesday, and then succeeded in having it passed. The opposition is ready to pull out its hair, even after it has consistently pulled itself out of parliament with boycotts and walkouts.

On Tuesday, when the bill in question was opened to vote, it turned out that the house lacked the required number to continue with the proceedings, proof that the opposition gets more done by being absent than it does by attending parliamentary proceedings.

The one-day extension of proceedings was necessary if the government wanted to pass the Commissions of Inquiry bill, whose passage has been successfully delayed by the opposition on three occasions. In light of the chaos that was the session of Tuesday, the extension of the session was not unwarranted and has paid off for the PML-N.

The problem is not just that the majority party passed a controversial bill, they are in their full right to do so. The problem is of legislators not attending sessions, or boycotting them on whims and fancies, leading not to discussion and amendments to problematic bills, but to bills being passed as the ruling party wants them with annoying delays. The PML-N itself is not above criticism either on this matter. A resolution regarding gas loadshedding had been pending since the previous private members’ day, when Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Resources Jam Kamal Khan had ducked out of the house rather than respond to members’ complaints during an especially heated debate. The trend of getting one’s way continues with the ruling party even using absence as a strategy. On the same resolution, on Tuesday, no one from the relevant ministry was in the house. When the deputy speaker moved on to the next agenda item, a resolution on the performance of PTV, again no one was available to respond on the matter. Yet the fact is that the PML-N can pass bill with empty front benches, as the politics of the opposition is weak, or absent.

Skipping the National Assembly is no solution to the stalemate, and rather than killing a bill, it keeps it pending till one day, the majority party may coincidentally be present, enough to form a quorum, and the opposition in its boycott will give them the numbers.