The past few years have seen a new buzzword, or perhaps more accurately, a buzz term, enter the country’s political discourse; ‘supremacy of parliament’. Politicians swear to uphold it, the government is accused of acting to undermine it and the media and civil society see it as a panacea to the country’s ills. Yet few, if any, are cognizant of exactly what it means.
There are three important pillars of the State which comprise the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary. Each and every pillar of the State has been assigned its role and is the foundation stone to a democratic society.
The Pakistani Parliament has two houses. One is known as the Upper House and the other is known as the Lower House of the Parliament. The Upper House of the Parliament is known as the “Senate” and the Lower House of the Parliament is known as the ‘National Assembly”.
From where did it all start?
This is not the first time that the National Assembly has witnessed such an unpleasant and untoward incident. The same was a replica of the past. On the 11th of June 2021, the incumbent government presented its third Federal Budget for the year 2021-2022, and the same was unveiled by the Federal Minister for Finance & Revenue Mr. Shaukat Tareen in the National Assembly session on Friday.
While the Federal Budget 2021-2022 was being unveiled by the Federal Minister for Finance & Revenue the same was subject to uproar and protest by the opposition parties. The House saw unpleasant scenes during the presentation of the Federal Budget 2021-2022.
The opposition parties were heard chanting slogans such as “Cheeni Chor”, “Aata Chor”, “Petrol Chor”, “No to Privatization of Steels Mills”, and “Dhandli-Zada Hukoomat Namanzoor” and were seen carrying placards, banners, posters against the incumbent ruling elite.
A noisy protest was also lodged by the opposition members during the speech by the Federal Minister for Industries Mr. Hammad Azhar. The opposition later staged a walkout.
This prompted the custodian of the House the Speaker of the National Assembly Mr. Asad Qaiser to issue a warning to the members and asked them not to raise “inappropriate slogans” as the same could bring disrespect to the parliament and its legislators.
The opposition parties have termed the Budget to be “the most anti-public budget in the history of the country.”
Read more: Budget 2021 and the whines of fading hopes
An absolute mayhem
Just recently the National Assembly witnessed one of the most unpleasant, unbecoming, unheard-of scenes among the members of the parliament, the so-called elected representatives of the public.
As the leader of the opposition, Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif was about to address the post-budget session of the parliament and this gave rise to an untoward incident when one of the members of the incumbent ruling elite started using abusive and foul language towards the opposition. The Budget books were torn, and the same was thrown on each other by the members of the parliament. It was no less than a madhouse!.
And this was it! Then nobody even bothered whether it be the members of the opposition or whether it be the members of the ruling elite. Abusive, foul language could be heard from all corners of the National Assembly, be it male members or female, everybody starting chipping in!
This untoward incident led to a scuffle between the members of the ruling elite as well as the opposition. The Parliamentary Secretary for Law & Justice Barrister Maleeka Bukhari was hit on the eye by one of the members of the opposition by a book of the Budget as a result of which she suffered an injury in the eye.
Likewise, one of the members of the incumbent ruling elite Mr. Ali Nawaz Awan was seen using abusive language against one of the members of the opposition Sheikh Rohail Asghar. The situation became even more serious when the National Assembly Sergeants had to be called in by the Speaker of the National Assembly to control the situation so that the Leader of the Opposition could complete his post-budget speech.
Treasury benches vs the opposition in Pakistan’s National Assembly. It’s free for all and violent. pic.twitter.com/Q1t5j1Anmd
— Murtaza Ali Shah (@MurtazaViews) June 15, 2021
However, even this did not stop the members of the ruling elite to control their sentiments. One could even see the Federal Minister for Postal Services Mr. Murad Saeed throwing the copies of the Budget on the members of the opposition. Thereafter, the speaker adjourned the Assembly Session till today.
And the chaos continues?
Then again on the 16th of June 2021 when the National Assembly was underway the same saw some more unpleasant scenes even. Before it was the copy of the budget and later it was hand sanitizer bottles that were thrown from both sides.
An interesting development took place in light of the recent episode that the Speaker of the National Assembly banned the entry of seven lawmakers into the Parliament House over the foul language during the budget speech of opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif. These lawmakers include MNA, Ali Gohar Khan, Chaudhry Hamid Hameed, Sheikh Rohail Asghar, Faheem Khan, Abdul Majeed Khan, Ali Nawaz Awan, and Syed Agha Rafiullah.
After the untoward incident, the Speaker of the National Assembly called upon the leader of the opposition and the Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party for maintaining order in the House.
Despite a call for order, the National Assembly session was marred by unpleasant scenes where the leader of the opposition could not complete his speech, and thereafter, the session had to be adjourned once again.
Where does the remedy lie?
In view of the absolute carnage and mayhem which took place in the National Assembly, the same also offends the Rules and Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly of 2007, more particularly, Rules 30 and 31 of the Rules.
Rule 30 of the Rules and Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly 2007 provides for the “conduct of members while present in the Assembly”.
Rule 31 of the Rules and Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly 2007 provides for “conduct to be observed while speaking”. Both these rules aptly deal with the present situation.
Similarly, in terms of Rule 16 of the Rules and Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly 2007, the Speaker has been empowered to send a reference of a question of disqualification of a member to the Election Commission within a period of “30 days” if a question of disqualification of a member is raised in writing.
For whatever happened in these past two days the same shall be remembered as one of the darkest days of the Parliament’s history. It is also quite sad to see that the Speaker of the National Assembly who is the custodian of the house of 342 members has miserably failed to perform his duties and has not been able to control the affairs of the Assembly and conduct the session in a smooth manner.
May Allah help and guide us all!
The writer is an advocate high court practicing in Lahore and is a founding partner of Ahmed & Pansota (Advocates & Legal Consultants). He started his career with Cornelius, Lane & Mufti after doing Bar-at-Law from Inns of Court School Law, London, and was called to the bar at Lincolns Inn, London, in the year 2005. Barrister Pansota also figures as a legal analyst in a weekly talk show called Zanjeer-e-Adal on Capital TV and appears on other national TV channels. He also writes for various newspapers on current legal issues. He tweets @pansota1. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.