The way the two houses of Parliament are functioning does not strengthen democracy. Absenteeism, the bane of the Musharraf era Parliament, is too common. On Monday, the Senate had to defer almost all of its 12-point agenda due to the absence of the concerned ministers and two of the movers of adjournment motions. The performance of the National Assembly is no better. Lack of quorum was often pointed out during the last days of the debate on budget. At one point, the Prime Minister had to strongly reprimand the relevant government secretaries for absence from the session. At another sitting of the National Assembly the Prime Minister had to apologize when a minister came unprepared at the question hour. Absenteeism whether on the part of the ministers or the member of Parliament is symptomatic. The lack of presence by the former indicates that despite the government's claims that it considers parliament supreme and wants to further empower it, in real practice it does not give much importance to it. The ministers do not turn up because they think their other engagements are more important than parliamentary proceedings. They are aware that decisions on vital national issues are taken outside Parliament. A look at the legislative performance of the Parliament would bear out that they are not wrong. The rule by Ordinances, a legacy of the Musharraf era, continues as before. During the first parliamentary year ending March 16, the total number of laws passed by National Assembly was four and this included the finance bill. Compared to that there were 12 Ordinances issue by the President. This is an indicator of where vital decisions are taken. Why should the ministers and important bureaucrats under the circumstances be particular about attending the Senate or National Assembly sessions? It is not just a matter of the legislative performance. Major issues of vital national importance are not brought up at Parliament by the government. By the end of April this year when the government had been in power for fourteen months, there were 1,841 incidents of terrorism leading to the loss of 1,395 lives but there was not a single enquiry report presented in National Assembly. The country continues to be harried by power outages leading to widespread protests that have often become violent. Federal Minster for Power repeatedly asserts that loadshedding will definitely end in December 31. Federal Minister Khursheed Shah repeatedly contradicts him saying there is no hope this can be done this year. The issue however is not brought to Parliament for discussion. During the last year and a half issues that should have been resolved by Parliament have landed in the hands of other actors because the government showed no keenness to take them to the federal legislature. The issue of the restoration of judges was resolved through street power while the question of the legality of November 3 emergency has finally been taken up by the Supreme Court. Thanks to the appointment of a political non-entity as its Chairman and a low calibre member as Leader of the House, the Senate could not resolve differences over the nomination of the chairmen of its committees. Thirty six committees that were supposed to have presiding officers within a couple of weeks remained dysfunctional for months as the Senate Chairman and the Leader of the House lacked the political sagacity to resolve the differences between the aspiring parties. The parliament looks like a toothless body. It sometime passes motions without evolving an effective mechanism to follow them up. The resolution condemning violation of Pakistan's airspace is, for instance, no more than the expression of a sentiment. In a system where the Head of the State is centre of the system and the supreme legislator, parliamentarians are bound to lose interest in their work. Parliamentary debates become less attractive. A number of parliamentarians consequently devote more time to petty problems of their constituencies than to national matter or issues of foreign policy. Others employ most of their time while in Islamabad in activities that benefit them personally. In circumstances like these, parliamentary democracy becomes more a matter of form than essence. E-mail: