Virtual parliamentary session
Federal Minster for Science and Technology, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Chaudhry has pleaded for convening the virtual budget session of the parliament. Earlier, when the government had suggested calling such type of parliamentary session to discuss the outbreak of coronavirus and reach a political consensus on how to tackle this natural calamity, the opposition leaders rejected the proposal as being unconstitutional. The in person session did take place but leader of the opposition Shabaz Sharif skipped it and law makers of opposition parties could not bring any workable proposal that can be helpful for the government to improve its strategy for combating Covid-19. Most of the time was consumed in criticising the government measures in vague and out of substance phraseology.
While logically substantiating his argument in support of virtual session, the Minister for Science and Technology said currently 18 lawmakers are still fighting against the virus and urged the people to exercise caution to remain safe from the disease. The argument is based on rationality, logic, legitimacy and necessity of the time. Several high profile political personalities including National Asssembly Speaker Asad Qaisar, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Federal Minister Shehryar Afridi, Sindh minister Saeed Ghani had contracted corona virus, while a few lawmakers had succumbed to virus infection and lost their lives. The other day, Sind Minister for Human Settlement Haji Ghulam Murtaza Baluch passed away after contracting acute infection of coronavirus.
The national tally of virus infection has gone up to 80,463 with active cases of 49,825 and reported deaths of 1,688. The daily spike in infected cases has assumed an alarming dimension. The data presented by the Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid in press conference is quite worrying. She said Lahore is the worst hit by virus infection with 12,878 patients and next in line are Rawalpindi with 2225 patients, Faisalabad 1662, Gujranwala 1436 and Multan 1220. The actual figures of coronavirus infections may be much higher if one gives credence to a news headline of a Private TV Channel the other day stating that a summary sent to the Punjab Chief Minister SardarUsamanBuzdar contains the number of suspected cases to be more than a half a million people.
In the prevailing extraordinary situation, models of parliamentary sessions adopted in the UK and Canada can be followed instead remaining of stuck in the interpretations of relevant provisions of the constitution and laws on the statue Book. House of Commons was reconvened after Easter recess on April 21 and the British lower house of parliament straightaway adopted a motion to hold its future sessions under a ‘hybrid model’, allowing approximately 50 of its 650 MPs to attend the sessions in person and 120 others to join virtually via video link. Isn’t this parliamentary model of mother of democracies worth emulation? It seems very unlikely that opposition stalwarts including leader of the opposition Shabaz Sharif and other veteran opposition stalwarts like former Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani, former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi and ex Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal may be unaware of recent British Parliamentary Model.
The day House of Commons adopted a motion for ‘hybrid model’ the Parliamentary Committee on virtual session constituted by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar met and decided against the proposal of holding virtual sessions. Later, meetings of the committee decided to close the door on necessity of such sessions. It is worthwhile to move with time instead of remaining stuck in the past.