U-Turn From ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ Syndrome

We can’t just be focusing on carting the ‘Ease of Doing Business in Pakistan’ mantra world over without creating enabling environment within…Laws, legislation, etc. etc. can’t keep replacing moral laws. That’s the U-turn we all must take.

IRSHAD SALIM — The one-year old government is facing criticism from the opposition, law experts and civil society organizations for relying on ordinances to operationalize its decisions, says a report. These are sunset instruments, meaning absent priorities or logjam in legislation in the parliament, they ease the administration keep moving but carry a shelf life. The parliament, within a certain time period, shall uphold them or shoot them down. Putting them on hold is another tactic.

At present, some 127 bills, including 102 private member’s bills remain pending before various committees of the National Assembly. Some of them can be construed as potentially bipartisan in nature, while some require a ‘business as usual’ treatment. In either case, the first right of refusal rests with the government for sake of not only project democracy but for its functioning. Both add up to continuity of the roadmap unless a bad faith groupthink or a sinister design prevails –it could be on either side.

The government is using Ordinances to keep rowing the boat and some have called it ‘bypassing’ the parliament. Others dub it as a ‘safety relief valve’ –to maintain ‘business as usual’ approach in the face of a cul-de-sac (cars parked at the end of the street). In such a situation, using the Trump Card –Ordinances — delivers, if good faith is maintained though. Some 26 ordinances were promulgated each year on average over the past decade when Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the PPP were in power. In contrast, the incumbent government’s run-rate is 13.

If numbers mean anything for comparison, that’s quite a good score for the incumbent government. So are the past ones though– they passed ‘good faith’ benchmark looking back. No heavens fell then nor anyone created two-way rat tunnels for free-rides.

Notwithstanding the criticism, the move of ‘bypassing’ the parliament is allowable constitutionally (time-borne) and a decade of their precedence adds credence to the parliamentary practices. They are sunset laws then and they are now too.

More significant is the fact that the subjects of these Ordinances are what the nation as a whole deserves notwithstanding tribalism of vested interests. Among these sunset rules are for Succession Certificates, Benami Transactions, the National Accountability (Amendment) and the CPEC Authority. Adding them up smells of good faith just as such were over the decade. 26 versus 13. PTI still remains below (doing good) in this T20 match!

We can’t just be focusing on the ‘Ease of Doing Business in Pakistan’ mantra world over without creating enabling environment within. ‘Business’ means not just paperwork reduction for dollars and cents but an ecosystem. Sans putting rest of the house in order would make us look like being in the laughable ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ situation. Laws, legislation, etc. etc. can’t keep replacing moral laws. That’s the U-turn we all must take. Now or never.

The writer is a consultant and analyst –based in Islamabad.

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