After a long recess due to the coronavirus pandemic, the National Assembly will be back in session on Monday. This decision came hours after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a phased relaxation of lockdown restrictions despite the surging number of coronavirus cases.
The National Assembly will maintain strict social distancing and safety precautions. Parliamentarians have to adhere to these precautions and sit one seat apart from one another. The recommendations of the special committee on coronavirus would be implemented and additional medical personnel will be deployed. Rules regarding quorum have been suspended and it is not compulsory for parliamentarians to attend.
This is a need to maintain the democratic process despite the pandemic. Many pressing issues need discussion and legislation that need to be passed have been put on hold. Even opposition parties wanted to resume parliament but could not agree on a mechanism. The idea of a virtual session was floated but it was quickly dismissed by most parties due to technical and constitutional issues. Now a physical session has been called so that the legislative process is back on track.
The session of the National Assembly will focus solely on the coronavirus situation in the country. The opposition would certainly criticize the government handling of the crisis. It needs to be seen if PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, who strongly advocated for resuming parliament, would make an appearance. There would also be close eye if the ongoing spat between the Sindh and Centre will spill over to the Lowe House.
The supremacy of parliament shall be maintained in all circumstances even during extraordinary times such as the ongoing pandemic. Discussions on such issues should be encouraged and the legislative process cannot be halted. The National Assembly should complete the necessary sessions for the parliamentary year and hold regular sessions.
This is crucial as the budget is also expected early next month. There needs to be regular debates and legislation as the budget this year will be different keeping in view the economic and health crisis in the country. It is a welcome step that that parliamentary process has been restored.