Hardly a parliamentary reporter could imagine that the deeply polarized national assembly of Pakistan, which had surfaced through a viciously contested election in July 2018, could smoothly pass a consequential law to regulate the appointments of Services’ Chief and set the procedure for extending their tenure.

Both the houses of our parliament did deliver on this count, however, with a record-setting speed. Far more surprising was “the consensus,” the government and the number-strong opposition parties quickly developed on a possibly explosive issue. The hardened cynics were yet not impressed.

Most of them rather felt strongly that forgetting the either/or animosity, our politicians had rushed for the surprising consensus, primarily to please and facilitate the most formidable institution of our state. They would take no time for returning to obsessive showdowns, both within and outside the house.

As if to prove the cynics wrong, the government and the opposition representatives kept staying put in the office of the national assembly speaker for another day.

The task of presiding over the Thursday sitting of the national assembly was outsourced to Syed Fakhar Imam. As a veteran parliamentarian, who had also been elected to the Speaker’s office in 1985, Imam firmly but politely goes by the book, regulating the business in an elected house. That made the proceedings “dry.”

Close to the end of Thursday sitting, however, he generously allowed a huge crowd of backbenchers to wail over issues that primarily related to constituencies they had been elected from.

Staying put in the Speaker’s office, the government and the opposition representatives surely wanted to sustain the “momentum for consensus” by keenly pondering over multiple drafts, prepared to introduce more than a score of “new” laws.

The PTI government had previously attempted to enforce some of those laws through the Presidential Ordinances. Immediately after their notification from the President’s office, the PTI government also got them “approved” by the national assembly, in a manner that visibly smacked of “bulldozing” through reckless abuse of its majority in the lower house of parliament.

The arrogant conduct of the PTI government provoked the opposition parties. They collectively vowed to firmly block the legislative process in the upper house of parliament, where the PTI does not savor the privilege of even the single largest party. The legislative process in Pakistan certainly seems stalled for the past three months, therefore.

The government and the opposition had also failed to evolve consensus for the appointment of a Chief Election Commissioner. Two members, representing Sindh and Baluchistan, had not been appointed either. The Election Commission thus remains dysfunctional in a country, Pakistan, proudly proclaiming itself an “Islamic Republic.” It surely is the time to address the perennial embarrassment on this count.

But top in the list of agenda, actively being considered in the Speaker’s chambers for the past two days, remained a plethora of amendments, the opposition keenly wants to insert in the law that empowers the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly feels that he has reached the Prime Minister’s Office, thanks to a relentless war he waged against corruption for 22 years. Taking advantage of his resolve, the NAB turned hyperactive since the advent of Imran government in August 2018.

But the manner, the “autonomous” NAB sped up the process of accountability soon started to look like a vicious witch hunt of the political opponents of the PTI government. It deepened the political divide and prevented the possibility of developing any working understanding between the government and the opposition. It stalled the legislative business, completely, and eventually forced the government to realize that it could simply not deliver while constantly pushing the opposition to the wall.

The PTI ministers, engaging the opposition in a “constructive dialogue” these days, are too willing to dilute the “draconian powers” of NAB through legislative initiatives. But they also feel paralyzed for the fear of hawks from within the PTI. These hawks continue to remind the Prime Minister that the core base of his supporters only want him to continue pursuing the one-point agenda, i.e., merciless accountability of the “looters and plunderers.”

The massive revamping of the NAB-related laws could also force the mass of our people to feel as if “in return” to rushing to consensus on a consequential law, the opposition preferred to extract “relief” for many of its high profile leaders, currently spending time in jails,or in NAB custody, for allegedly committing serious acts of corruption. It can easily generate the feel of granting a grand “NRO” that Prime Minister Imran Khan repeatedly refused to furnish for the “looters and plunderers.” The government and the opposition are thus not able to find appropriate means of moving on a highly complicated issue.

Lest you forget, the IMF has also been demanding the passage of some laws, again “by consensus.” For the pronounced objective of reviving and stabilizing Pakistan’s economy, the global regulators had prepared a “bailout package.” It would require three years to deliver. For the smooth and effective delivery of the program that Pakistan had formally agreed to, the IMF had been pressing for a comprehensive law to ensure and augment the “autonomy” of the State Bank of Pakistan.

Most businesspersons have not been feeling too comfortable with the desired “autonomy”. Many of them already feel that the State Bank has allowed the depreciation of Pak Rupee to an unbearable level. Some tycoons claim that the SBP has fixed a rate of interest on bank borrowings, which discouraged investing in new businesses.

Far more important for ordinary persons like you and I, remains the IMF demand that through a comprehensive law, regulators like NEPRA and OGRA should be fully empowered to fix the rates of utilities like the electricity, gas and petrol, without seeking any approval from the government.

A huge number of Pakistanis, especially the salaried and middle class persons, are already bickering over the rates of household utilities that the PTI government seems increasing, almost on quarterly basis, since taking over in August 2018. Most of them comprise the passionate “vote bank” of the PTI as well. Many of them now feel abandoned, betrayed and cheated by the leader they had admired and adored for years.

The PML-N and the PPP also have to think twice before granting arbitrary powers to regulators like NEPRA and OGRA. By agreeing to pass the regulators-empowering law, “with consensus,” these parties would surely alienate their supporters.

An average Joe of this country would rather be pushed to believe that the so-called “democratic system” only caters to elite-set priorities. And “legislative business” merely protects“territories” that various sections of our elite have already marked for their exclusive control.