National Assembly meets

The new Assembly faces multiple challenges

The 16th National Assembly, elected on February 8, met on Wednesday, in response to a presidential summons that should have been routine, but was not. President Arif Alvi had initially refused to sign the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry summary summoning the new National Assembly on the plea that the Election Commission of Pakistan had not yet decided the allocation of women’s seats. However, the National Assembly itself had prepared to summon the House nonetheless, and because his refusal would have no effect, the President on Wednesday night did the needful. Whatever the manner of the summons, the problems of the new House remain unaffected, though the President’s attitude may be sign of things to come.

One of the main problems of the new House will be managing the PTI, which in its Sunni Ittehad Council avatar, is the largest party in the House, and if Thursday’s proceedings are anything to go by, will prove vociferous and committed to showing loyalty to party chief Imran Khan. It will not be a matter purely of parliamentary niceties, as can be seen by Mr Khan’s letter to the IMF asking it to undertake an audit of the election. The new government will have to ensure that the PTI does not attempt to conduct a foreign policy of its own. This letter, which the IMF said on Wednesday it had not yet received, segues into another major concern of the new government, the economy. At the PML(N) parliamentary party meeting which anointed Ayaz Sadiq for the Speakership, and Mian Shehbaz Sharif for the Prime Ministership, Mian Nawaz Sharif made clear that the economic situation was difficult, and that members should be ready for two years of difficulty. The PTI’s letter shows that it is aware that the most immediate task of the government will be to negotiate an IMF programme to succeed the present Strand-By Arrangement ending next month.

However, perhaps the most significant challenge of the new National Assembly is whether it can generate a government which can last out the five-tenure of the House. Houses now no longer dissolve more than a couple of days early, but PMs have been changed around the three-year mark in each of the last three Houses, in two of them without the ruling party being changed. It is to be seen whether the House witnesses the same pattern.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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