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When in doubt, pass a resolution

January 04, 2013

A view of the National Assembly. — File photo

If you can’t make a meaningful impact, you can at least pass a meaningful resolution – so was the formula followed by the current National Assembly that passed 76 resolutions from March 2008 to now about every major event in the country.

Legally speaking these resolutions are only meant to express the sentiments of the house on any given issue, and are not at all binding like the legislative business of the house.

Talking to Dawn, Ms Yasmin Rehman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) contended that members of the National Assembly were fully justified in highlighting issues in the form of resolutions, regardless of the fact that the government implemented the decisions suggested or not.

Here’s a recap of some of resolutions that created a stir here and abroad:

Benazir Bhutto’s assassination

Quite expectedly, the first resolution of the National Assembly that was passed on April 14, 2008 was about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The resolution was presented by Law Minister Farooq H Naek and recommended the government approach the United Nations to probe Bhutto’s murder. It called for the formation of an international investigation commission, the “Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Commission, to identify the culprits, perpetrators, organisers and financiers behind this heinous crime and bring them to justice.”

Although the government did manage to form a UN commission, five years later the identity of the brains behind the plan remains a mystery. According to recent media reports, the government has requested the UN commission not to make public its entire report.

The Shariah resolution and the militancy crisis

The next important and rather interesting resolution that the house passed was on April 13, 2009 in which it voiced its support of the infamous Shariah Nizam-e-Adl Regulation, 2009 to provide for the Nifaz-e-Nizam-e-Sharia’h Muhammadi through courts in the provincially-administered tribal areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Later on when the agreement failed to improve law and order in the Malakand Division, the government moved in the Pakistan Army for a full-fledged military operation.

The Abbottabad raid

On May 14, 2011, a joint sitting of the parliament took stock of the developments after the fateful May 2 Abbaottabad raid, which saw Osama bin Laden eliminated. The parliament after an in-depth discussion – which included presentations by the then Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence, Director-General Military Operations and Deputy Chief of Air Staff (Operations) – recommended the constitution of the Abbottabad Commission. It’s been nearly a year since the commission completed its report, but for reasons known best to the government, the findings have not been made public.

The foreign aggressors: US and Israel

On repeated occasions during the last four years, the National Assembly passed resolutions for the protection of the country’s sovereignty against foreign aggression, with special reference to the US. One such resolution was passed on April 12, 2012, which said, “Pakistan’s sovereignty shall not be compromised. The gap between assertion and facts on the ground needs to be qualitatively bridged through effective steps. The relationship with USA should be based on mutual respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each other.”

Middle East

Likewise, on more than one occasions, Israel specific resolutions have also gone through the National Assembly. The last one was passed on November 20, 2012, which said, “The house has resolved that Israeli attacks on Gaza and other Palestinian cities is blatant aggression wherein hundreds of innocent men, women and children have been killed and critically injured. Such invasion is intolerable for Muslims.”

PPP versus the judiciary

Whenever the PPP government felt threatened by other institutions, it sought refuge behind the National Assembly resolutions. On May 3, 2012, a resolution was passed to repose complete confidence in Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani as the “constitutionally and democratically-elected prime minister and unanimously-elected chief executive of this country.” Unfortunately, the resolution proved to be of no use as Mr Gilani was sent home on June 18 by the Supreme Court.

The lower house of the parliament also supported the ruling of the speaker that had been passed in favour of the former prime minister against the SC decision through a resolution on June 14, 2012, but that too was to no avail.

Earlier on September 3, 2010, the National Assembly passed a resolution affirming its commitment “to strengthen the true and genuine democratic system and democratic institutions, which alone can ensure national integrity and solidarity, inter-provincial harmony, balanced economic development and the well-being and prosperity of the people of the Pakistan.”

It was around the time the Supreme Court had given its decision on the National Reconciliation Ordinance case. A similar resolution was also passed by the house on January 16, 2012, which said, “This house believes that the present democratic dispensation, which is about to complete four years, came into being as a result of great sacrifices rendered by the people of Pakistan.”

Balochistan and the discontent therein

The issue of the restive province of Balochistan has also figured in these resolutions. The last one was passed on October 12, 2012 in which the house said: “(It) was deeply conscious of the urgent need to bring about a broad-based and effective political reconciliation in Balochistan, thereby enabling the active participation of all political parties’ and leaders in the national democratic process and ensuring full and proper representation and empowerment of the people of Balochistan.”