The numbers of the National Assembly’s first year are in and only confirm the obvious; the lower house of parliament performed well below par. With 50 bills lying pending, a failure to conduct sessions for the mandated 130 working days in a year and 263 hours worked in the entire year – out of which 90 hours were spent only discussing the budget – it is obvious that the people’s representatives have failed in their most fundamental duty, to voice the concerns of those that voted for them in the lower house and pass legislations that can improve the lives of citizens.

None of this is something we didn’t know. The parliament’s abysmal showing has been visible to the naked eye; this report just confirms the extent of the problem. The only work of note done by the National Assembly in this past year has been working on the bills surrounding the FATA merger and the budget debate. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) time in opposition had also posted poor numbers of attendance and an overall indifference towards parliamentary matters; not much has changed now that PTI is in government. However, the ruling party needs to understand that the failure to attend sessions as opposition is not nearly as detrimental as doing so at the head of the government.

The Prime Minister’s Cabinet is not the only section of the government that the PTI needs to focus on; legislative work is just as important as whatever it is that these parliamentarians choose to spend their time doing. The Prime Minister should start leading by example, or at the very least get his MNAs in order – forcing them to attend sessions and asking the Speaker to hold more sessions and focus on debating and passing the pending bills needs to be made a priority. Given that this crop of lower house representatives needs 90 hours to debate and pass the budget, one can only imagine the amount of time it would take to pass any of the other 50 bills currently lying in wait.

The National Assembly is the prime institution of democracy and it lies completely unutilised and forgotten; PTI needs to ensure that it is made functional again. If the representatives of the people are choosing not to represent those that voted them into office, what does this say about respect for democratic principles by those in power?