Treasury backbenchers keep govt on its toes in opposition's absence

Source: Published in Politics on Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Following the opposition walkout on Tuesday, proceedings of the National Assembly should’ve ground to a halt. Indeed, when PTI’s Lal Chand Malhi popped back into the house to point out quorum, this was probably what the opposition had in mind.

But when the sitting resumed an hour later, the treasury benches were brimming with members. Such heavy attendance by government ministers and MNAs from the treasury benches is a rare sight, limited mostly to joint sittings or sessions where key legislation is to be passed.

Buoyed by the numbers, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq went through the heavily-packed legislative agenda of private members day in double time: six committee reports were tabled and nearly 20 agenda items were knocked off in around two hours, punctuated by lively debate on a host of issues. A large number of items – moved by opposition members – were deferred by the speaker since the concerned members had walked out.

But uniquely, it was treasury backbenchers who played the role of opposition, raising matters of concern and rapping the relevant ministers for not addressing their concerns. Since the criticism was coming from their own party colleagues and allies, government representatives appeared far more civil and cooperative than they would when opposition members raised similar concerns.

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Written by Hassan Belal Zaidi

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