Whatever happened in the joint session of Parliament on Thursday was a setback for democracy. The EVM bill had become a matter of prestige for the government while voting rights for overseas Pakistanis were considered crucial to win the next elections. The government was twice defeated in the National Assembly in voting on some bills and a joint session of Parliament was called off at the last moment. The way the PTI got a number of bills passed has naturally aroused questions. All the more so when days before the session numerous PTI allies went public over the miseries of the people and the allies’ inability to sell government policies to their voters. What led to a sudden change of heart in them raises questions.
The way the bills were passed brought no credit to the government. The Speaker acted as an unabashed party loyalist. His rulings invariably favoured the government. His decision on the voice vote was almost automatic, supporting the government irrespective of which side had the loudest voice. This led to noisy protests, jeering and a chaotic situation. This speaks volumes about the lack of democratic culture in the country’s parliamentary process. When the Chair ignored the opposition which had serious reservation against the bills, the opposition leaders staged a walkout to register their protest.
According to the Leader of the Opposition, despite recourse to all unfair tactics the government failed to come up with 222 members required for the passage of bills in a joint sesion. The Opposition also claimed that Treasury votes were over-counted
The PTI government’s contempt for state institutions has led to bypassing Parliament by increasingly relying on presidential ordinances to make changes in the laws. The electronic voting system could aggravate differences with the ECP. The devious ways used to carry the day would serve those who hope to control the country by manipulating the flaws in the system.