The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly has passed a controversial law at a suspiciously convenient time. The Assembly has approved legislation for the official use of a helicopter or an aircraft by the chief minister, minister or public servants on behalf of the chief executive of the province at the provincial government expenses. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, this initiative was taken just after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said the upcoming by-election in four National Assembly constituencies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa could be postponed if the provincial government did not comply with the code of conduct pertaining to the use of the provincial government’s helicopter and state resources for electioneering.
This is not the first time that the use of the helicopter by KP officials has come into contention. In 2018, the KP Assembly was also deliberating passing a law which would allow cabinet members to use the helicopter at the government’s expense.
There are several problematic aspects to this development. Firstly, enacting laws that are meant for the sole benefit of the lawmakers, and are passed hurriedly to overcome a specific legal hurdle, are a disservice to legislation. Parliamentarians are enacted with an imperative duty—legislating; any one law, amendment or ordinance can have a fundamental impact on our legal system. Bills should be drafted keeping the gravity of the function in mind.
Apart from the manner of passing, the contents of the legislation also raise concerns. The use of state machinery for personal use is problematic especially if election campaigning is the objective. While using a helicopter might be justified in special circumstances, increasing the furnishing allowance at the time of election campaigning gives the impression of self-service. It is hoped that for the sake of fairness and smoothness of the election, the KP government exercises caution. Otherwise, it looks to be seen whether the opposition in the KP Assembly may take the new law to the courts for challenging.