The numbers don’t lie, under the Pakistan Thereek-e-Insaaf (PTI) the Parliament has become fettered to the point of redundancy. Attendance, number of sessions, length of debate, and most importantly, the number of laws passed have all fallen drastically. Instead of dealing with the troublesome opposition benches the government has decided to bypass the institution by making law through presidential ordinances. While it is technically allowed to do so, the PTI has twisted the conception of this power beyond what was envisioned by the framers of the constitution.

Ordinances are supposed to be emergency actions when the Parliament is not in session, ultimate authority rests with the Parliament still. The government cannot use this power as a substitute for normal democratic lawmaking. Doing so is authoritarian and tyrannical; ordinances become royal decrees – laws passed without any input from the people’s representatives. It is because of this the PTI has to face consistent criticism for “ruling by ordinance”. Considering that this criticism seems to have slid off the government like water, it becomes imperative that we clip the powers of the President and make this executive power more reasonable.

That effort is now underway. Through a private member’s bill submitted to the Senate Secretariat, Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani has sought to add two provisos to Article 89 of the Constitution. The amendment preserves the President’s power to pass ordinances in emergencies, “provided that the ordinance shall be laid in the first sitting of the National Assembly after its promulgation and shall stand repealed if not laid in that session”.

This is a quite reasonable change; it maintains executive power and the ability of the government to respond to new situations quickly, but mandates them to get it approved from the wider Parliament under a time limit. It is hoped that this amendment finds the support necessary to become law.