As the lockdown continues in a limited capacity, questions are being raised over the role of parliament and how business must resume in the days ahead. Parliamentarians from across party lines have been seen working to provide relief in their constituencies, but as many observers have righty pointed out, all other essential organs of the state continue to function while the assemblies stay shut. There is no doubt that the parliament must also start functioning in some shape or form, but only if health and safety guidelines are given precedence over all else.

None of this would be necessary if parliamentarians would agree on holding digital sessions. The practical considerations are not altogether insurmountable, given all representatives would have to come to Islamabad for an in-person session anyway. They do not have to physically attend the session in the assemblies – video links for homes and offices in Islamabad would overcome the issue of internet access.

However, elected representatives have denounced digital sessions, which means that the doors of parliament will have to be opened once again. This can only happen after hurdles such as implementing safe practices and finding a way around quorum numbers have been surmounted, however. Even so, no amount of safety standards will completely eliminate risks, as the recent announcement of a JI MPA from Sindh testing positive shows.

But given that increasing calls for a re-opening are gaining traction, the significance of holding a parliament session is only dictated by the value the representatives derive from these meetings. If we are to see the usual indifference and verbal abuse that have become customary facets of assembly proceedings, the matter is not as urgent as political leaders would claim. Restoring parliament then, must also come with the additional caveat of pulling up our socks and finally getting things done, without the usual chaos. There are associated risks with going back to work in the midst of this pandemic. If the parliamentarians insist that it is important to do so – which it definitely is – let’s hope they make it worth their time.