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15th National Assembly’s Actions Undermined Democracy’s Core in Pakistan

By: Faheem Anwar

ISLAMABAD: A recent analysis by PILDAT sheds light on how the conclusion of the 15th National Assembly has left Pakistan’s democracy in a precarious state, resembling its vulnerability at the time of its election in 2018. Over its five-year tenure, the National Assembly and elected representatives allowed democracy to weaken rather than strengthen. With a total of 279 legislations passed, the assembly’s legislative activity surged by 45% compared to its predecessor, but a significant portion of hasty enactments compromised fundamental democratic principles and human rights.

Having witnessed two distinct governments, the 15th National Assembly operated from August 18, 2018, to August 09, 2023. The PTI government heavily relied on ordinances for legislation, resulting in a substantial increase of 97% in comparison to the previous term. Shockingly, during the last three weeks alone, 73 bills were passed, with nearly half of them not undergoing committee review.

The assembly’s productivity dwindled as it convened for just 452 sessions in five years, translating to an average of 90 sessions per year. This marked a 9% decrease compared to the prior assembly. Moreover, the assembly’s working hours saw a 21% drop from its predecessor, utilizing only 249 hours per year on average. Notably, each working hour came at a cost of PKR 24.23 million to taxpayers.

The 15th National Assembly holds the distinction of successfully passing a Vote of No-Confidence against a Prime Minister for the first time in Pakistan’s history. The outgoing Prime Minister’s admission of intelligence agency involvement in securing votes for legislation and budgets further tainted its record.

Institutional reforms remained elusive during the assembly’s term, which primarily focused on budget discussions without robust scrutiny. The assembly’s disregard for amendments through supplementary budgets, along with its failure to establish the Prime Minister’s Weekly Question Hour, raised concerns about oversight and accountability. Crucial matters like engaging with outlawed entities, addressing crises with neighboring countries, and international concerns were overlooked.

Despite its completion of a full term, the 15th National Assembly’s performance was hardly distinguishable from its predecessors. Attendance of Prime Ministers and Members of the Assembly reflected a disconcerting trend, with limited participation by the highest office bearers. The assembly’s average attendance, although initially higher, diminished after the PTI’s decision to exit.

In essence, the PILDAT report underscores the erosion of democratic vigor in Pakistan’s 15th National Assembly, revealing a need for substantial reforms to restore the assembly’s true role and preserve democratic principles.

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