ISLAMABAD - The Parliament and the provin­cial assemblies should take cen­ter stage in order to forge political consensus and provide leadership to the executive in shaping Paki­stan’s response to the multifacet­ed challenges posed by the rising spread of COVID-19 in the country, says a statement released by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) here on Tuesday.

FAFEN urges the federal and pro­vincial governments to immediate­ly convene the Parliament as well as provincial assemblies – through tele-working or other means to avoid physical congregation – for deliberating and finalizing the proposals and plans to tackle the looming health, economic and ad­ministrative challenges.

FAFEN asserts that Pakistan’s legislatures must provide or up­date legal instruments and policy guidelines to federal and provin­cial governments in the interest of complementarily, consistency and uniformity so that the efforts by the executive are more system­atically directed towards contain­ing the epidemic and minimizing its impact on economy as well as public life.

The sheer scale of problem war­rants a broader political consen­sus forged in a transparent man­ner by the elected houses to formulate short-term and long-term strategies to address the cri­sis emanating from the pandemic.

Shutting down the legislatures and their support services at this critical moment is hampering the consultative decision-making, and may aggravate the political fis­sures compromising the execu­tive’s efforts.

The Council of Common In­terests (CCI) and National Eco­nomic Council (NEC) may also be employed to their optimal consti­tutional mandate at a time when the federation and provinces ap­pear to be taking conflicting po­sitions on ways to deal with the crisis. Nevertheless, the Parlia­ment’s initiative to constitute a broad-based national committee on economy and health with the representation from all federating units and the parliamentary par­ties is a welcome step, but should be best achieved through consen­sus and dialogue during parlia­mentary sessions.

Pakistani legislatures’ engage­ment in shaping the governmental response to the COVID-19 has been lackluster so far, especially if com­pared with the legislatures of other countries hit by COVID-19.