Although the elected Sindh Assembly has now gone home, a report compiled by the provincial assembly’s secretariat shows that the opposition in the assembly largely remained shut out from the legislative process.
During the five years of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) dominated Sindh Assembly, a total of 157 bills were passed but all of these came from members of the assembly who were a part of the government. In contrast, during the five year term of the assembly, a total of 150 bills were presented by members on the opposition benches, but not a single one became law.
Commenting on the legislative process which seemingly shuts out opposition voices, Abdul Razzaq Rahimoon of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), which sat on the opposition benches along with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), remarked, “if the opposition is not allowed to play any role in lawmaking, then an opposition should not even exist in this flawed system.”
“The framers of the constitution envisioned an opposition which would improve the legislative process. However, presently, the opposition is just a mere spectator in lawmaking. Those in majority pass whatever law they wish to and the PPP government did the same,” said Rahimoon, further adding that the PPP had rejected good bills of the opposition simply on the basis of its majority in the assembly.
Arif Mustafa Jatoi, another former member of the provincial assembly, who also belongs to the GDA, concurring with Rahimoon, said that no functional democracy can operate in such a way. “For instance, in the United Kingdom, a private member can introduce a bill at any time, without the permission of the government. However, in our case only Tuesday has been reserved as private member’s day,” explained Jatoi, adding that even the bills introduced on private member’s day had no chances of passing if those on the treasury benches had a clear majority.
However, Qurban Baloch, a journalist who covers the National Assembly, disagrees with Jatoi. “Perhaps only the provincial assembly suffers from such arbitrary law making because the National Assembly in its recently concluded term saw many bills from opposition members being passed,” said Baloch.
“Members from the opposition take the members on the treasury benches in confidence about important bills and can usually get them passed depending on their importance,” added Baloch.
Munir Saqi, a journalist reporting on the Sindh Assembly, believes that the harmony seen at the National Assembly is not possible in Sindh because the opposition tends to be weak. As per the journalist, during the recently concluded five year term the opposition was no match for the PPP and it barely put up any resistance.
“The PPP had 100 members and the opposition had 68 in the Sindh Assembly. However, the opposition was so divided that they failed to reach consensus on anything substantial and thus could not put up a fight against PPP’s lawmaking,” observed Saqi while talking to The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th2023.