After extending the shelf life of two Ordinances through a hastily summoned sitting Thursday, the national assembly now looks completely clueless about what to do or deliver. It stretched the Question Hour to unbearable limits and then left it to the floor to generate some engaging business. Both the treasury and the opposition members had no substantive idea to sell.

Through a calling attention notice, some of them did attempt pushing Sarwar Khan, the minister of aviation, to a tight corner. They recalled a relatively old media story. It had revealed that to install a new package of in-flight entertainment, the state-run PIA had deliberately adopted a process for bidding that clearly favoured a definite company of carpetbaggers, savouring close connections with top-most management.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan had already moved on this front. Taking advantage of his constitutional authority to oversee all possible issues of governance in public interest, he had rather exposed the colossal incompetence, which prevails at PIA these days. The details, he collected through pointed questions, made shrieking headlines. The minister was reluctant to comment; for, the matter was still “sub-judice.” And the MNAs had nothing new to add as well.

Discussing the said story, not one of “our honourable representatives” cared remembering that the national assembly also has a Public Accounts Committee. Its primary job is to probe scandalous happenings at state run companies.

Soon after the election of July 2018, Shahbaz Sharif, the opposition leader in the national assembly, had forced the Imran government to let him get “elected” as Chairman of the said committee. The corruption-hating base of the PTI was deeply upset over his selection. Those days, he himself was spending time in NAB’s custody, which accused him of committing multiple “crimes of mega corruption,” while running Punjab for two consecutive terms from 2008 to 2018.

After grabbing the coveted office, Shahbaz Sharif began summoning the meetings of Public Accounts Committee, almost on daily basis. To preside the said meeting, he would come to Islamabad from the jail and stay put in a house, officially allotted to him as the opposition leader in the Ministers’ Enclave of Islamabad.

Shahbaz Sharif had diligently built his reputation as a hands-on governor. Even his ardent critics genuinely hoped that as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, he might introduce and enforce an extremely vigilant mechanism of oversight while monitoring governance-related affairs.

After managing his bail from courts, however, Shahbaz Sharif stopped coming to Islamabad, even for attending the national assembly sittings. Eventually, he left for London along with his elder brother, who also had managed to get out of jail on medical grounds.

Soon after landing in London, the opposition leader opted to leave the Public Accounts Committee and installed one of his loyalists, Rana Tanvir, as the new Chairman. Since his election, Rana Sahib is running the said committee in a lacklustre manner. The Public Accounts Committee is certainly dead and dysfunctional by all standards these days.

“Our representatives” have yet to realize and honestly admit that “other institutions” always find ample space and legitimacy to fill the vacuum that they themselves create by not activating fully empowered committees of elected houses. The Supreme Court had also felt forced to move in, simply because the Public Accounts Committee preferred to disregard the PIA-connected stories.

Instead of taking initiatives on his own as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Rana Tanvir sounded doubly pathetic while pleading to Deputy Speaker that he should constitute a “special committee” to probe into the wheat shortage, which created the feel of near-famine some weeks ago. Qasim Suri was surely justified to ignore his point-scoring plea.

The Senate was in session, when the stories of wheat shortage were dominating the news cycle. During the two consecutive sittings, bombastic speeches were delivered on the issue in our upper house of parliament. At the end of general discussion, the Chairman Senate had clearly asked the House Committee on Food Security to probe into the matter. This committee was also asked to submit its report “within seven days.”

Two weeks have passed since then, but the Senate Committee on Food Security could yet not find the real causes of wheat shortage. Don’t blame the marginalized sections of our society; if instead of looking up to their so-called “representatives,” they expect the Chief Justice of Pakistan to invoke judicial powers for oversight to find answers to questions that crises like the wheat shortage keep generating in our luckless country.

Rana Tanvirs of this world must not be blamed either. They are but helpless hostages to a quasi-democratic system where the political parties are mostly run like the family fiefdoms and slavishly stick to a top-down model.

With 84 members, the PML-N dominates the opposition in the current national assembly. Its leader, Shahbaz Sharif, is staying put in London. His party seems rudderless in his absence. Most people, who had reached the national assembly on its ticket, remain oblivious regarding the “narrative” to pursue these days.

Since April 2016, its leadership had been tried hard to make us believe as if the PML-N would pursue the one-point agenda of establishing the “civil supremacy” in Pakistan. “Vote Ko Izzat Doo (respect the vote)” was the theme song of this movement. It lost the steam too soon in the game; could not stand for long to endure the viciously launched hunt in the name of accountability and began seeking “relief” through covert negotiations with powers that be.

With the sole desire of staying relevant to power games, the PML-N eventually decided to extend “unconditional support” to the Imran government, when it felt being stuck in an extremely difficult situation.

Before leaving his office late last year, former Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had forced our parliament to pass a law, which should settle the complicated matter related to the appointments of Services’ Chiefs for the times to come and clearly define the method of extending their tenure.

For having negligible presence in the upper house of parliament, the Imran government could not frame the required law on its own. Instead of taking advantage of its dilemma, the PML-N rushed to help it. And the rest is history.

After establishing its “mature and responsible” sides, most PML-N leaders are now eagerly waiting for tangible dividends of their “good conduct.” They continue to hope for “in-house change” for installing a sort of “national government.” I don’t see any chance of it. Yet, the self-pleasing dreams of the PML-N have certainly scuttled the initiative taking potential of its members of the national assembly.