In the five years of its tenure, the Punjab Assembly has passed a few memorable Bills to its credit, and few controversial ones to its chagrin. However, taking a look back at its reign, the tenure has been overall defined by the larger relationship between the legislative body and its provincial subsidiary, the Punjab government, and the latter’s ultimate obfuscation of the former’s role.

In such an inverted power dynamic, where government departments can easily refute the authority and obviate accountability that is constitutionally exercised by a prevailing parliamentary body, the functions of the government become highly susceptible to corruption and misrepresentation. According to reports, the government has adopted tactics of evading attention notices, blocking motions and resolutions and outright ignoring the assembly upon being called into question.

With the exception of The Sikh Marriage Act and three bills that seek to advance the status of women in society, not many pieces of legislation have seen effective fruition through the outgoing assembly’s tenure. The government’s disdain for the legislators has been an obvious impediment along with routine political affiliations and machinations. It has been evident that the subsidiary body holds the real power when it comes to passing legislation, a truth that compromises the role and bearing of the assembly. Where the assembly had sought to effectively pass bills tabled by the provincial departments, the latter reportedly dithered on same front when bills were moved by legislators. The Punjab government has also repeatedly impeded any motions that seek to empower the standing committees, diminishing the credentials and capabilities of the legislators. Case in point has been a Bill on domestic violence that was rejected on technical grounds.

The bent of power towards the government was also evinced in successive laws passed by the assembly that sought to inflate the role of government departments, such as the law regarding LDA, appointing the Punjab chief minister as its chairman and allowing a monopoly of real-estate through government affiliated agencies. Similarly, the Punjab Local Government Act, a promising endeavour to empower local government also lost much of its potential through amendments that sought to surreptitiously endow the provincial governments with more discretion through the devolution.

Bills that should have been accorded due attention by the government include the Compulsory Education Bill and Bills that address child marriage. Nonetheless, Punjab Assembly deserves credit for its progressive pro-women legislation. It passed three bills during the period for the betterment of women. Promising legislation also includes the Punjab Overseas Pakistanis Commission Bill during the second parliamentary year, bills on the establishment of universities in Sahiwal and Jhang, and upgrading the status of Fatima Jinnah Medical College into a university. Hopefully the succeeding Assembly can learn from its predecessor’s progressive stance and yet also reaffirm itself in the power matrix during its tenure.