NATIONAL Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has yet to provide a satisfactory explanation of why he has chosen not to exercise the powers vested in his office to issue production orders for the elected representatives of North and South Waziristan to participate in the current session of parliament.

The Assembly’s procedural rules clearly state that the speaker or any chairman of a committee can summon an MNA who is in custody to attend parliamentary proceedings. Yet, despite the repeated protests of members of the opposition, including BNP-M president Akhtar Mengal and PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the speaker has prevaricated.

Earlier, he had suggested that he required a written request to consider issuing the orders, which is not accurate, though even this self-imposed criterion had already been fulfilled in a letter sent to him late last month by Mr Bhutto-Zardari. On Monday, the speaker said that he was consulting the law ministry on the matter, which is also unnecessary. While the merits of continuing to deny MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir their right to attend house sittings and represent their constituencies in the ongoing budget debate are difficult to comprehend, the drawbacks are all too obvious.

The people living in the tribal districts of KP have for too long endured disenfranchisement and upheaval. Waziristan’s fragile stability in particular — a hard-won gain after decades of unrest and conflict — has been seriously tested in recent weeks. Failure to summon their MNAs to parliament sends a clear signal to the people of Waziristan that many down country remain stubbornly careless and negligent in their attitude towards them, and perhaps even consider their elected representation as unimportant.

It is now more vital than ever to be sensitive to the need to not further alienate the people of Waziristan. They must be shown that their rights and that of their MNAs are considered as sacrosanct as any other citizen’s. Speaker Qaiser should immediately issue production orders for Mr Dawar and Mr Wazir to appear in parliament.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2019

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