ISLAMABAD - The coronavirus with its all negative impacts also compelling human beings to change its set patterns of life. With other unavoidable alternatives, for the first time in parliamentary history convening special virtual sittings of parliament would be a novel experience for parliamentarians.

A parliamentary body comprising three former speakers of national assembly and other senior members would start their deliberation for amending the rules to make possible convening unusual session of parliament, amid coronavirus scare.

Following the concept of digital democracy, Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser had already taken an initiative by constituting a bipartisan parliamentary committee to deliberate possible measures to combat dangerous virus.

Like some other countries, parliamentarians of Pakistan are some steps away for witnessing a new experience due to novel disease. Obviously, it would be almost impossible to engage all the lawmakers to represent their constituencies in the virtual session at a same time.

Parliamentary leaders with some main MPs of parliamentary parties are expected to take part in upcoming virtual session of parliament. Political and constitutional experts viewed that the virtual session would not be much different from actual [regular] session. Walkouts, verbal brawl or exchange of hot words on any difference of opinions are also possible.

Citing the example of walkouts of opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif and PPP-P Chairman  Bilawal Bhutto Zardari from first parliamentary meeting on coronavirus, they viewed the opposition would  behave in a same manner. Like the actual session of parliament, Backbenchers of parliament might not get opportunity to represent their constituencies, they commented in a lighter vein.

Peoples of Pakistan have many expectations from their representatives in this current unusual difficult time. Voices can also be heard on TV channels and social media about the absence of their representatives [MPs] due to hardships created by novel virus. They were also seen commenting that MPs never hesitate to knock their doors in election days, but now [in Corona crisis] they had not paid a single visit. Even filthy rich MPs have yet not announce donating their [one or two months] salaries in a war against deadly virus.

Political experts commented that video conferencing set-up means lawmakers will not have to physically attend the session but some issues might also turn up about their travelling allowance and other related perks and privileges. Some MPs from remote areas have already shared with this newspaper that it would be impossible to participate without internet facility in their areas.

A foreign newspaper has also recently reported that some MPs feared about losing their allowances. “Whether they will receive the stipend, which amounts to an annual tax-free income of more than £48,000 for a member attending the 150 days,” according to a report of foreign newspaper.

Talking to The Nation, the lawmakers from opposition expressed mixed reaction over expected virtual session in coming month. Some of them were of the view that actual session should be convened in current crisis. “There is capacity of joint session in national assembly hall, so maintaining social distance regular session can be called,” said PML-N’s MNA Mian Javed Latif, mentioning that donating one day or one month salary might be a eyewash. “There is no harm to give one-month salary, but I think it is eyewash. We have already been giving in constituencies and also given funds to our parties to combat in ongoing war against virus.”

PPP-P’s Abdul Qadir Patel said, “It is not possible to maintain social distancing and make ourselves visible on TV screens.” He said members contemplating to amend rules to call virtual session would also discuss about funds related issues. Other MPs commented that the government should speedily adopt measures to win war against COVID-19. Virtual session or arrangement for online standing committees should have been made much earlier.