It is alarming to consider the rate at which parliamentary conventions and practices are being ignored in favour of partisan politics. Another important session in the National Assembly (NA) – a budgetary session no less – was sacrificed to a screaming match between the government and the opposition on an issue that had no bearing on the agenda of the day.

The scuffle outside the parliament building between Awami Muslim League (AML) Chief, Sheikh Rasheed and a Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) office holder Malik Noor Awan while casting some doubt on the intentions of the office of the Deputy Speaker could hardly be dubbed important to the national interest. It is a personal matter between two individuals at most, and even if, as the opposition and Mr Sheikh Rasheed claim, it was orchestrated by the PML-N as a spectacle for the media, it still does not supersede the discussion of the budget that will govern the lives of 190 million people in the coming year.

But professionalism is in short supply in the NA and cooler heads even rarer. The Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah bought out pictures of Malik Noor Awan with the Prime Minister and other senior PML-N leaders – pictures that he must have directed his staff to produce at some point in the previous day – during a speech protected by convention and designed to give the opposition an open floor to raise concerns over the budget to accuse the government of conspiracy. It was a flimsy claim not worthy of the Leader of Opposition, not even of unscrupulous cable news shows.

For their part the government was little better; it took the bait and lashed out without regard for their own agenda, rules of the parliament or even good strategy leading to a situation that is becoming so common in the legislative arms of the government that it universally and consistently called a “ruckus” without second thought.

And a ruckus it was, furious parliamentarians screaming and hurling insults at each other, all the while the national budget hung in the balance. The honourable lawmakers should be better able to control their emotions, and even more importantly should place national interest over political point-scoring. While the previous sentence can be dismissed as wishful thinking in election season, at least we can expect – demand rather – that our lawmakers follow the rules and regulations that guide debate and discussion in the nation’s highest forum.