The budgetary session in the Parliament has had its fair share of drama and disruption but it seems there is still space left for more. Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed on Monday refused an open debate on the federal budget if his speech was not being telecast live on Pakistan Television (PTV) like the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s had been. Following the government’s expressed inability to do anything and the opposition’s collective support of Mr Shah’s stance, the Speaker Ayaz Sadiq tried to jumpstart proceedings by giving the floor to a government Member National Assembly (MNA); a breach of parliamentary convention that caused its own uproar.

The opposition’s combative mood can be understood if not condoned. It is election season and in the final budget debate it has decided to embody the role of the opposition well and truly. However, that role has been misunderstood; the opposition’s job is to act as a check to the government by critically analysing its legislative proposals, not act as a rowdy spanner in all government plans. While the latter is sometimes required too, since the budget debate began in the parliament, there has been little constructive debate on the issues involved – rather the conversation has lurched from one flashpoint to the next with insults rather than arguments being the most common currency.

The government bears responsibility in the breakdown of debate too with its unequal treatment of debate telecasts, but the opposition must also shoulder responsibility for the constant uproar in the house.

That being said, the government cannot virtually blackout the opposition’s comments. If the treasury is provided a public platform for the airing of its arguments, then the opposition must be provided an equal platform too – these are the prime foundations of a democracy. Government ministers may be correct in pointing out that they had bought a package for the airing of Mr Ishaq’s speech from the PTV and the channel already had scheduled programming for the day, but on this occasion the government had to think like the impartial state it is supposed to be and not as the vehicle of the ruling party.

In the absence of a dedicated channel broadcasting parliamentary proceedings – an oversight that must soon be corrected – the government can at least ensure parity. If the state buys time for the airing of a parliamentary session it must give equal time to the opposition as given to the government.