The nation being witness to the unedifying sight of two party colleagues squabbling in Parliament, it appeared that the government is unable to formulate a coherent policy on the war on terror. One PPP Senator, the former minister Raza Rabbani, blamed another, Rehman Malik, for introducing an Anti-terrorism Act which would ‘legalise state terrorism’. He said this in response to Mr Malik blaming Parliament for not passing the act. He said this on Friday, while tying to explain away the stay given by the Sindh High Court against the government’s ban on motorcycles. He does not seem to have noticed that the failure to legislate was actually a failure of the government, which had a majority in both Houses of Parliament. The significance of this failure will increase with the general election around the corner, and not just the lack of public unity noticeable, but also the subject: the war on terror. Mr Rabbani’s reservations on the proposed bill cannot be ignored either, for it has been seen worldwide that the so-called war on terror has been used by governments to whittle away at the liberties of the citizen, and it would be too much to expect Pakistan to be an exception.

Senator Rabbani seems to feel strongly about the bill and his calling it the equivalent of making state terrorism legal shows that he saw in it the potential for misuse by the state. That potential would be particularly significant for the coming election. Though elections are conducted by caretakers, with the right laws in place, a government can do a lot in the time left to it, to help itself win again. However, the inability of Mr Malik to push through the bill is now being blamed by him on Parliament. He wishes to defend the ban by mentioning the approval of the Prime Minister, but he does not mention that the ban was struck down because it was found unconstitutional.

Perhaps it is better for Mr Malik to defend the striking down by the courts of his ministry’s decisions, than to pilot legislation so fiercely criticised by members of his own party, but questions will inevitably be raised. It is also no help to any cause to have him say that no one could challenge the wisdom of the government, when that is precisely what the courts are supposed to do. The government should also realise that matters will only get worse if it keeps dragging its feet on a dissolution, which is the only real solution for such exhibitions of party disunity.