As the government shutdown in the United States enters its third week, legislation in Pakistan’s Parliament appears to have come to a standstill as well. Committees had to be formed in the parliament by September 17th - yet four months have come and passed, and committees still have not been formed today.

A lot of the fault for that can be chalked up to the failure of both the government and the opposition to set aside their differences and work together on the very essential function of the parliament- which is law-making. With everyday walks-outs in the parliament, unhelpful allegations thrown against rival politicians on the floor of the National Assembly and arrests of opposition members, it was not too surprising that both sides seemed unable to stop shouting at each other for a moment to cooperate on forming standing committees. For the longest time, the biggest hurdle towards legislation was the issue of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman- the opposition absolutely refused to settle for anyone other than the Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif- who PTI was not ready to appoint, citing his arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Now that the PAC issue has been settled, with PTI giving in to the opposition’s demand, and the opposition graciously appreciating what it termed as “PTI’s positive U-turn”, there seemed hope that our elected representatives would finally get around to doing the job that we voted them in for. Yet the Speaker is still struggling to complete the process of the formation of house committees.

What is causing this unnecessary delay? It is unclear as of now what the point of contention is but it seems related to division of the committees. Under the agreed formula, the chairmanship of 18 committees would go to the opposition while the remaining 20 committees would be headed by the ruling party. The two sides are yet to discuss the committees to be distributed, with the opposition parties wanting to head the important committees like interior, foreign affairs, power and finance- which PTI, in all likelihood, will never agree to.

This country needs good progressive legislation, and comprehensive reform of the existing laws. It is time that we see the kind of legislation promised in the areas of human rights, education and health, which would pave the way for Pakistan to be a welfare state. We urge the government and the opposition to leave politics out of the standing committees- good legislation should have bipartisan support.