The Federal Law Ministry has been fairly active under the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government and the Federal Minister for Law and Justice Dr Farogh Naseem. Instead of drafting large-scale reform legislation focusing on the legal system, the ministry has instead stuck to tinkering with rules and regulations related to procedure that fall under its preview. Doing so has allowed it to carry out the government’s “anti-corruption” agenda on the strength of executive action alone, seeing as the ruling party has effectively precluded itself from any compromise in the Parliament that might be needed to pass legislation.

However, tinkering with the rules behind the scenes as the prime form of governance has led to another set of problems. Now the Law Ministry is effectively dictatorial in its approach, and the constant tinkering with rules of procedure has added several layers of patchwork make-shift rules to an already ponderous legal literature. Reforms attempt to simplify and streamline decades of iterative law-making into a solid whole. Executive tinkering does the opposite.

It is due to this reason that the Law Ministry’s greatest hits so far have been small changes like restricting those being investigated for cases of over Rs500 million to C-Class facilities in prison.

Stemming from this reluctance to legislate is another problem; Dr Farogh Naseem seems to have inherited his party’s preference of speaking first and retracting later. The ministry has found itself in hot waters several times over controversial “proposals” that were seemingly just about to be approved – all premised around taking power developed to the provinces and centralizing it into the hands of the federal departments.

Devolution and centralization, and exact demarcations of the grey area in between, is a legitimate subject on which the Law Ministry should work. Yet it is not done like this. Dr Naseem must provide a workable bill in the parliament if he wants to make changes, not simply “suggest” incendiary changes in press conferences.