The problem of legislation | Pakistan Today

The problem of legislation

  • Another ordinance is struck down

President Arif Alvi might complain that he is badly served. There have been three major debacles, with which he has been involved intimately, and where he has had the Supreme Court overturn a document he has signed. First was the notification of the appointment on two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan, in which his having signed off on their appointment did not stop the Supreme Court stopping their taking office and referring the matter back to Parliament. Similarly, in the imbroglio over the Chief of Army Staff’s extension, he signed more than one notification, none of which satisfied the Supreme Court, which then mandated Parliament to pass legislation to allow the extension. The most recent example is that the Pakistan Medical Council, which replaced the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council by virtue of an ordinance signed by President Alvi. The IHC  found that the ordinance had been issued to avoid having recourse to Parliament.

President Alvi might well claim that he was bound to act on the advice tendered to him by the Prime Minister, or indeed any member of the Federal Cabinet, but the pattern is unmistakable: the judiciary does not see why it should accept constitutionally dubious steps just because it suits the federal government. The government itself, which also put forward Mr Alvi for the Presidency, does not seem to realise that it only got executive authority in the 2018 election, not legislative competence. That would only have only been available if the PTI had had a majority in the Senate, which it does not, and for which it must wait until 2021.

President Ali should try persuading his party leader, Prime Minister Imran Khan, to be more circumspect in his actions. The Supreme Court seems to be seeing Parliament as having to perform the functions of a legislature as prescribed for it by the Constitution, even if it includes those whom the Prime Minister sees as corrupt and thus unworthy of notice. When tendering advice to the President, all should make sure that it does not try to undermine the legislature. True, the present government was elected on a reform agenda,but that should not be interpreted as a mandate to tear things down.