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Should lawmakers be prevented from attending parliamentary sessions?

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On April 26, 2023, seven lawmakers from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party were stopped by the Islamabad Police from entering the National Assembly during an ongoing session. The lawmakers were from Karachi and had resigned from their seats in protest of the party Chairman Imran Khan’s ouster in April last year. Months later, their resignations were accepted by Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. However, they approached the Sindh High Court (SHC) seeking reinstatement and holding by-elections on their seats. The SHC ruled in their favor, and their suspension was lifted, giving them the right to attend the assembly session. The lawmakers announced their decision to attend the NA session during a meeting in Karachi and wrote a letter to the lower house speaker, informing him about it.

However, when they arrived at the Parliament House, they were stopped by the police, leading to a standoff. The PTI MNAs chanted slogans against the NA speaker, prime minister, and interior minister while demanding entry into the lower house of parliament. An exchange of harsh words took place between the lawmakers and the police before the former eventually returned after staging a protest against the resistance from the police at the NA’s main gate.

The incident raises questions about the role of lawmakers in a democratic society. Should lawmakers be prevented from attending parliamentary sessions, even if they have a legal right to do so? Does such an act go against the principles of democracy? What can be done to prevent such incidents from happening in the future?

One argument is that preventing lawmakers from attending parliamentary sessions goes against the principles of democracy. In a democracy, elected representatives have the right to attend parliamentary sessions and participate in debates and discussions on behalf of their constituents. By preventing lawmakers from doing so, their constituents’ voices are silenced, which is not acceptable in a democratic society.

However, another argument is that there may be situations where preventing lawmakers from attending parliamentary sessions is necessary. For example, if lawmakers pose a threat to public safety, it may be necessary to prevent them from attending the session. In such situations, it is important to ensure that the lawmakers’ legal rights are not violated and that due process is followed.

To prevent such incidents from happening in the future, it is essential to ensure that lawmakers’ legal rights are respected. The government and law enforcement agencies should be mindful of the legal procedures and due process when dealing with such situations. There should be clear guidelines on how to handle situations where lawmakers are prevented from attending parliamentary sessions, and these guidelines should be followed in the letter.

The incident where PTI lawmakers were prevented from attending the National Assembly session raises questions about the role of lawmakers in a democratic society. While it is important to ensure public safety, lawmakers’ legal rights should be respected at all times. There should be clear guidelines on how to handle situations where lawmakers are prevented from attending parliamentary sessions, and these guidelines should be followed in the letter.

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