The political dilemma we have at our hands, of an empty opposition in the National Assembly, may benefit and irk the PTI and the government in its own ways, but the true brunt of this situation is being shouldered by the country and its legal system. Our parliamentary system has been crafted in a way that both the treasury and the opposition are vital for the functioning of the National Assembly, and with this order disrupted, the system is crumbling.
The recent sessions of the National Assembly are evidence of this. Lawmakers in Wednesday’s session of the National Assembly passed 11 bills without discussion and without even having the required quorum for voting. In normal circumstances, the passing of a bill in the National Assembly would be good news, but those bills would have passed after careful deliberation and debate in the parliament. Without an opposition to provide its legislative duty of oversight, and with a treasury bench eager to pass as many bills as possible before its short tenure is over, the likelihood of good laws being passed is low.
A bill is not a joke that it may be passed on a whim, without the requisite quorum or discussion, and sometimes, without parliamentarians even having read the bill. A bill passed has a large possibility of becoming law, and one harmful provision of one law passed carelessly can have a devastating impact on the country for decades. All proposed laws have to be debated even if only to improve or vet. Bad laws can lower trust in the legal system, cause delays in the court, or lead to confusion as to authorities of jurisdiction. Some of the bills passed without debate include a bill seeking enhancement of punishments for spreading obscenity on social media, which may have consequences for freedom of speech. The task of parliamentarians is first and foremost legislation—and we need intelligent debate to ensure that bills being passed are up to the mark.