In spite of completing 18 months in the government, the PTI could yet not develop a strategy, which can establish the worth and utility of an elected parliament. It feels forced to summon the national assembly sessions, simply because the Constitution of Pakistan clearly demands that the said house must meet, at least for 130 days, in a parliamentary year. After summoning the national assembly session, however, it remains clueless about how to go about it.

The government’s pathetic lack of capacity on this count has certainly helped Asad Qaisar, the Speaker of the national assembly, to take the lead in finding and assigning some noteworthy tasks to the house he presides.

Asad Qaisar had been a lie-low kind of political worker from Swabi. After spending some years of his youth with the Jamaat-e-Islami, he had switched to Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf. The party rewarded his grassroots activism by selecting him as the Speaker of the KPK assembly, after the election of 2013. His accumulated experience in that capacity eventually propped him up tothe office of the Speaker of national assembly.

The unassuming Asad Qaisar is surely a very deep type. The house he presides is ferociously polarized. Yet, he took no time to develop the skills of managing calm by trying to act non-partisan. Instead of the opposition, the PTI hawks often and loudly questionhis “opposition-appeasing” conduct.

Taking advantage of his friends-to-all reputation, the Speaker could easily persuade the opposition that since the government had not set any significant agenda for the current session of the national assembly, it should devote three of its sittings to comprehensively discuss the agriculture-connected issues of Pakistan. From Wednesday, he was all set to start the desired discussion. But his own party, the PTI, had let him down.

When the house resumed the sitting after the break for prayer, the treasury benches were almost deserted. The most irritating absence was of Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, the minister of food security. Parliamentary Secretary of the same ministry was not present either. That provoked Murtaza Abbassi of the PML-N to agitate through a point of order.

It obviously looked absurd and pointless to deliver speeches on an issue, agriculture, which the speaker and most legislators considered crucial and fundamental, when the concerned minister and his bureaucratic aides were not around. With a visibly hurt heart, Asad Qaisar was forced to adjourn the house until Friday morning.

 

Announcing adjournment, Qaisar did reiterate with a firm voice that come what may, he was determined to have a comprehensive discussion on agriculture-related issues for at least nine hours in the current session. His resolve, no doubt, deserves admiration. For millions of Pakistanis, agriculture remains a life/or death issue and things on this front have begun to look too bleak for some years. We need to wake up and seriously search for means to inject vibrancy to this sector.

 

As a humble reporter of parliamentary affairs, however, I cannot stop myself from reminding that the primary job of the national assembly is to legislate. While delivering on this count, “our representatives” also need to vigilantly monitor the business of governance.

 

In spite of the serious concern that the Speaker holds for agriculture-related issues, the national assembly miserably failed to find what really led to serious shortage of wheat and flour only a few months ago. The opposition kept demanding the establishment of a national assembly committee to probe into the matter. Asad Qaisar could not motivate the government to go for it.

 

Prime Minister Imran Khan rather preferred to ask the FIA to probe into the causes of that crisis. These days, the said institution is being led by an officer, Wajid Zia, who had made history of sorts by locating the “real sources” of Nawaz Sharif and his family’s “ill gotten millions.” The Supreme Court had assigned him the task during the heat of scandal, triggered by the sensational leak of Panama Papers in early April 2016.

 

After many weeks of an apparently diligent probe, the FIA eventually prepared its report on presumably an “artificial crisis,” which the supply chain “mafia” had created. Prime Minister and his cabinet did not feel satisfied with that report and we remain oblivious to its causes.

 

For the past many weeks, member after member from the opposition benches also kept complaining from the floor of the national assembly that hordes of locusts had invaded vast territories in many areas of Baluchistan, Sindh and the South Punjab. The government never cared to provide assuaging responses to their pleas. Disregarding a plethora of here-and-now issues, directly connected to our agriculture, the national assembly must feel some shame for acting like a “think tank” and suggest grand ideas to radically improve the state of agriculture in Pakistan.

 

If you follow the Constitution of Pakistan, in letter and spirit, the directly national assembly is fully empowered to monitor the business of governance. Disregarding the responsibility of overseeing the doings of government, it must not reduce itself to the level of a “consultative body.”

 

We are condemned to live with a rudderless opposition, however. It looks doubly pathetic and incapacitated, if you consider the reality that combined numerical strength of the opposition parties in the national assembly is too formidable. They have more than 150 members in a house of 342. But they remain clueless how to utilize this strength.

 

The national assembly, which had surfaced through the election of 2018, remains lifeless, primarily for the fact that NAB hasbeen nabbing many top leaders of the main opposition parties, the PML-N and the PPP. They were alleged for committing serious crimes of corruption. To furnish some “relief” to arrested leaders, representatives of these parties were often found pleasing the Speaker, simply because he has the authority to order the presence of a detained member of the national assembly in house proceedings. As if to return ‘the favor,’ the opposition instantly said ‘yes’, when the Speaker desired that the national assembly should convert itself to a think tank and start guiding the PTI on good governance with unsolicited advice.