Our Esteemed Senate was formed under the principle of ‘Chamber of Continuity’. This house remains in place to oversee the democratic process to ensure a smooth transition of power of the lower house of the parliament and government. Arguably, the role of Senate was enhanced considerably post-18th Amendment to the constitution.

With the added importance to the Senate given by a parliamentary system of democracy, one would naturally assume that this would lead to more activity by our upper house. However, the latest analysis of the performance of the Senate during the outgoing 16th parliamentary year as compared with last year’s performance is far from satisfactory as a report published by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) reveals.

According to the report, the upper house, with its new post-election leadership and members, has failed to introduce a significant amount of legislation, and has passed even fewer. And what is unfortunate is the fact that the Senate has no good excuse for failing to perform its most important duties. With the emergence of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) as the new ruling party in the centre, with PTI’s many promises to bring about good welfare-based laws, many believed that the Senate would accelerate the task of legislation to new levels. The impression was that the Senate and its members would embark on an ambitious project of law-making on issues of utmost importance- alas it was a mistaken one. Although the Senate in Pakistan enjoys legislative parity with the National Assembly, over the last one year, the performance of the upper house with producing legislation and overseeing the executive failed to meet even the performance it showed in the preceding year.

All parties with members in the upper house of the parliament need to read the report of FAFEN. It is essential for all political parties to educate their members on the role of the Senate. The political parties need to tell their workers and those who represent them in the Senate that it is independent of, and complements the work of, the National Assembly. The Senate shares the task of making and shaping laws and checking and challenging the work of the government. It is crucial to remind the upper house its function which is to promote national cohesion and harmony and to alleviate fears of the smaller provinces regarding domination by any federating unit because of its majority in the National Assembly.

If the second chamber of the Parliament shrinks from fulfilling its duties, it will eventually lose trust from the people and the long-term adverse effects of a loss of trust in the parliament can shake the foundations of the federation.