THERE can be little argument that when lawmakers are elected, it is their duty to serve their electorate and if they fail to take oath of office, there are sufficient grounds for them to be de-seated. In this regard, state-run news agency reports said recently that a new ordinance (which has yet to be made public by the government) has been signed by the president. But, though the principle behind the new law seems fine, the government’s intentions have been questioned. The law — Election Ordinance (Third Amendment) 2021 — calls for elected members of the “Senate, assembly and local government” to take oath within 60 days of the commencement of the first sitting of the maiden session of a legislature. However, there is an impression that the PTI-led federal government would like to de-seat PML-N’s Senator Ishaq Dar, who has not taken oath and is currently in the UK, and make way for Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin to secure a Senate seat. Mr Tarin became finance minister in April and must be elected to the legislature in order to continue in his post for longer than six months after his appointment. Government spokesmen have denied the ordinance is aimed at removing Mr Dar, who is facing NAB references. Estranged PML-N leader and former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar had recently taken oath as a member of the Punjab Assembly after having won the seat in 2018.
As mentioned above, lawmakers who fail to take oath are doing a disservice to their voters and should be penalised. However, if the government wanted to take corrective measures, it should have taken up the matter in parliament in line with democratic procedures. What was the rush? Couldn’t the matter have been debated in the House? Resorting to ordinances, especially concerning such an important matter, should be avoided. It gives rise to the suspicion, even if misplaced, that such moves are meant to target the opposition. Lawmaking is serious business and should not be held hostage to petty political expediencies.
Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2021