The report released by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), detailing the workings of the Sindh Assembly, raises important criticisms as well as praise for some aspects of the assembly’s performance. One bright spot is the prominence of women parliamentarians. At the 48 sittings of the Sindh Assembly covered by FAFEN, women lawmakers asked 354 out of a total of 536 questions, a figure that far outnumbers the questions asked by the more numerous men lawmakers. This report, along with other initiatives by women on reserved seats, shows that the concern that reserved seats for women would have scant impact was misplaced.
The report, however, demonstrates that there are other ways in which democracy is being undermined. During the parliamentary year, there was hardly any criticism of the chief minister on the floor of the house for his performance. This is because there is barely any opposition worth the name in the Sindh Assembly. The two dominant parties in the province — the PPP and the MQM — are part of the coalition government, while the PML-Q joined it later.
The national opposition party, the PML-N, was not able to win any representation in Sindh. This means that the Sindh government can pass any legislation it likes without its merits being discussed, as is shown in the report by the fact that debate in the assembly was dominated by non-agenda items.
Furthermore, attendance at the Sindh Assembly was below par despite the fact that being present when legislation is discussed and passed should be the priority of every member of the assembly. There was also far too little discussion of vital issues like terrorism and targeted killings. The assembly also did not pass a single private member’s bill, showing that personal initiative is not rewarded in the province. Overall, though, the Sindh Assembly should be congratulated for operating in a transparent manner by allowing live coverage of its proceedings, unlike the other provincial assemblies.