NA Boycott

The ruling party and the opposition both are well versed in delaying tactics and creating issues out of thin air. Both sides by now should have resolved the dispute over the live telecast of the budget proceedings, but the boycott by the opposition of the National Assembly (NA) still continues after five days.

Both parties fail to realise that the issue is larger than the telecast itself. This is the federal budget that we are talking about – it decides how much input each sector will get and the overall outlook of the new fiscal year. While the government is right to point out that there is no tradition of telecasting the speech of the opposition leader; the claim of the opposition is also right. There is always a first time (though the ruling party agreed to it in 2015), especially when a move like this will strengthen the democratic setup. The people have a right to know what goes on in the National Assembly.

Transparency in any system is of the utmost importance. People need to know how the revenues are being distributed among the sectors, and engage in a debate and be able to hold their representative accountable. The entire idea behind the demand of telecasting should not be difficult to understand. The problem aggravates only when the government fails to engage the opposition effectively. When the opposition feels left out of the process, they retaliate. An example of this is the opposition leader, Khurshid Shah, who has maintained quorum and helped with the proceedings of the assembly. However, this time he feels that the government is purposefully disregarding his demand because the budget is not people-friendly, and they do not want anyone critiquing it on live broadcast. Even if it is not true, the ruling party’s resistance only lends credence to his claims.

At the same time, the opposition also needs to understand that boycotting the budget itself is not the way to go about things. Budget is the push start that any fiscal year needs. It points out irregularities and the inefficiencies that we have to make up for. This means that the solution does not lie in boycotting the process but to register your protest in a democratic manner; especially if the demand is also based on upholding the democratic values.

There are bigger problems hovering over the political system. There are reports of a Rs14 billion budget deficit in Sindh, health and education sector barely ever get a significant amount to see any change, and these are the pressing issues that we should be arguing over; rather than just the live telecast of a speech.

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