Despite public embarrassment, threats of suspension or pay cuts, nothing seems to incentivise the presence of MNAs in parliament. The PML-N is now considering using the lawmakers’ attendance in the National Assembly as a stick to award them party tickets to contest the 2018 elections. One can only hope that the carrot of the ticket can make them come to work.

The ruling party’s term is coming to an end and this punitive measure against lawmakers who have consistently skipped proceedings is much needed. While sessions are often wasted due to a lack of quorum, it may also be expedient for opposition parties like the PTI to institute similar measures.

The PML-N legislators, despite having a two-thirds majority in the lower house, have put on a less-than-stellar performance, especially in the last six months, due to the absenteeism of treasury lawmakers. The Commission of Inquiry Bill, 2016, for example, was delayed thrice due to the lack of quorum in the House. Last year, the ruling party’s chief whip in the NA, who is also the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, was ready to throw in the towel saying that he was so “helpless” against absenteeism on the treasury benches that he had thought of resigning. Eight lawmakers from main political parties missed nearly 300 sittings of the NA. This is a disregard for professionalism and civic duty, pure and simple.

The practice of spending resources to reach the office and then disappear till it is time for the next election is dishonest and ignoble. The PML-N must do good on this promise. The lawmakers continue to draw an increased salary from this month on, even when they are not in their seats.

Change must come from the top. The PM himself, needs to set an example, and be seen in parliament more often. Not only does this shame those of his party who are missing, it also puts up a clear challenge to opposition leaders like Imran Khan – notorious by his absence – to be more responsible.

Denying party tickets would be a fair punishment for those who thwart their duties, but let’s not forget that the VIPs of the party may still be able to circumvent this condition, considering elections are won by the traditional “electables”, rather than the best performers in the lower house. This perception must change, and the ruling party will do a great service to parliamentary culture if it gets all its elected legislators to attend sessions regularly.