ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s preoccupation with ‘out of the parliament’ business keeps his party lawmakers and allies to enjoy life beyond the ‘supreme’ body’s volatile halls where the opposition is always ready to take on the government.

Prime Minister Sharif himself has been a notable absentee and it has been noticed the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) legislators grace the National Assembly only when the premier chooses to step in. On other ‘dull’ days, they do not take the pain to drive all the way to defend the government in the assembly especially when the more tempting television studios are available.

Sources said after the recent embarrassment in the National Assembly over the lack of quorum, Prime Minister Sharif had directed his party to make sure that at least 90-odd members from along the 188 should attend the assembly sessions in turns even if they cannot be regular.

An official close to the Prime Minister told The Nation that Sharif always gave preference to the parliament but due to his ‘hectic engagements’ he was unable to be regular in the assembly.

“He has taken notice of the quorum issue and directed his party to ensure the business of the house is not disturbed. He himself has also pledged to find more time for the assembly,” the official added.

But the lawmakers also have their own informers in the assembly and who blow the whistle when Sharif is thinking of showing up in the hall. And when the PM attends a session there is no dearth of lawmakers who even wrestle to meet the premier to stamp their presence.

The low presence of the lawmakers and nearly no presence of the Prime Minister makes the system look more like a ‘one-man show’ rather than a parliamentary democracy where almost all issues are discussed inside the parliament.

Leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah said the government had failed to even convince its party members to attend the National Assembly sessions regularly.

He said the Prime Minister was least interested in the assembly business. “How can he ask his lawmakers to be present when he himself ignores the parliament? They are damaging the democracy,” he said.

Shah termed the failure of the government to ensure quorum in the National Assembly a big disappointment.

He claimed there was grouping in the treasury benches that resulted in the low presence. “You will notice that since Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presented the national budget (in June) there is some division in the treasury benches. Everybody realised the resentment of the treasury members and we had this quorum issue after that.”

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf’s Mussarat Zeb, who had indicated the quorum in the last session, said the government should show seriousness in running the democratic system.

“Quorum issue on a daily basis means politicians are not interested in the parliamentary proceedings. This is not good for the government or the democracy,” she added.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Abdul Waseem said the Prime Minister must give more time to the parliament ‘to attract’ his party lawmakers. “When the PM is not here, the treasury lawmakers disappear. I think the PM is the key to the quorum,” he remarked.

PPP’s Abdul Sattar Bachani said that never in the past lack of quorum was pointed out by members of parliament, but due to the government’s alleged irresponsible behaviour, the parliament had become a laughing stock.

However, PML-N leader Maiza Hameed said the democratic system was getting roots in the country. She urged all the political parties to support the democratic system in the country.

She said the opposition should not make quorum a national issue adding the government gave to priority to the parliament.

Political expert Dr Rasheed Ahmed said democracy and peace building were highly inter-linked with each other. “Democracy is a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. Democracy also means participation of people in decision making for a country. In a democratic system, people have liberty to choose and decide for themselves,” he added.

Ahmed said the parliament played a key role in a democratic system and the government and the opposition must give due respect to this pillar of the state.

Others including the politicians and analysts appealed to the Prime Minister to give more time to the parliament to neutralise the quorum issue.