The Parliament of Pakistan is increasingly showing itself to becoming a body which holds itself in high, sacred regard, but cannot walk the walk to match the talk. While senators and members of the National Assembly spend their time stressing how the parliament should pave the way for other institutions and attempt to get it protected from free speech, bills stay un-passed and laws stay unmade. Nothing demonstrates this better than the failure of the delimitation bill to pass because of the absence of senators.

The delimitation bill, which was to become the 24th amendment to the Constitution, may become another potential law confined to the dustbin of history because of inefficiency of the Senate. The absence of at least two-thirds of lawmakers meant that the bill, which is meant to pave the way for the timely conduct of the 2018 general elections, could not be voted on. Only 58 of the 104 senators were present in the house when the bill seeking to allow the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to carry out fresh delimitation of constituencies and providing for the reallocation of seats in the National Assembly on the basis of provisional census results was to be introduced, prompting the chair to defer the agenda item till Monday.

This is particularly disappointing, since debate over the bill had been going on for some time, and nearly all parties had reached consensus over it. Parties such as Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had repeatedly emphasised the need for timely elections and the dangers of delay; however, none of the seven senators of PTI, which was the most adamant party for early elections, were present, and around nine senators from PPP were missing. Only two out of eight senators from FATA showed up, the constituency which stands most to gain from the amendment.

The failure of the opposition parties to show up is highly condemnable, since they have been raising the most opposition to the delay in elections. These opposition parties were either deceiving the government and the nation or have no real intention of getting the election on time. All the hue and cry on early elections and on-time elections seems empty when senators from the opposition do not show up on the day of the vote in a coordinated fashion.

This irresponsibility should be investigated, if not for law and order, but for the senators sake, to check that their absence wasn’t because of fear or threat.