Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani has issued contempt notices to senior bureaucrats of the federal government for allegedly breaching the privilege of the Upper House of the Parliament for asking it to "reconsider" an earlier decision.

The Cabinet’s Joint Secretary Irum A. Khan had replied to the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Devolution Process adopted by the house on Aug 7, 2015. The committee had recommended that all policy, administrative boards and councils constituted under various acts of parliament or established by an executive order shall be reconstituted to ensure equal representation of all provinces. In response, Khan wrote: “the directions given by the committee in certain areas may not be consistent with the administrative legislation, constitutional framework and laws of Pakistan” and advised the Senate to reconsider its decision.

Rabbani seemed to have been incensed by this lack of respect for the senate, however, other senators like Aitizaz Ahsen thought too big a deal was being made over nothing and that the letter was within the rights of the bureaucracy. The truth is probably between the two positions.

It should not be taken lightly that the senate was accused of taking action that was illegal and unconstitutional. Though the letter may fall within legal bounds, questioning the senate goes against the tradition of parliamentary politics. In this system, the parliament is supreme. It only delegates powers to the executive (including the bureaucracy); it does not share them. We already have a very strong bureaucratic system that wields more influence on the legislature than it should. It must be checked by the legislatures, as they are the only law creating bodies. This being said, a warning to the offenders may have sufficed, rather than a political row and contempt notices.