The 249th session of Senate (Budget Session) witnessed a marked improvement in parliamentary output in terms of transaction of business, strict follow up of schedule, regular attendance of key members and participation of lawmakers in the debate on Finance Bill during its 12 sittings.
The session started on June 2 and concluded on June 17, 2016, with an average of 15% Senators present at the start and 22% at the end of each sitting. On average, a maximum of 66 (65%) members, along with three minority Senators, attended the session.
Each sitting started two minutes behind the schedule and lasted three hours and 26 minutes on average. The Prime Minister did not attend any of the sittings.
The Chairman, on the other hand, attended all 12 sittings and presided over 88% of the session’s time. The Deputy Chairman attended five sittings and chaired 6% of the proceedings, while one percent of the time was presided over by members of the Panel of Presiding Officers and 5% time was consumed in breaks.
The Leader of the House was present in 11 sittings and attended 73% of the session’s time, while the Opposition Leader remained present in 10 sittings and attended 44% of the session’s time. The Finance minister attended four sittings, consuming 18% of the session’s time.
The parliamentary leaders of PML, BNP-M and PML-N attended all sittings followed by PPPP and PkMAP (11 each), JI, MQM, PML-F (9 each), ANP (8), NP (6), PTI (5), and JUI-F (3). The Parliamentary leader of BNP-A did not attend any of the sittings.
The budget debate lasted 16 hours and 48 minutes, consuming 41% of the session’s time. As many as 64 lawmakers shared their views on the Finance Bill, including 19 from PPPP, followed by PML-N (17), Independent (5), ANP, MQM, PTI (4 each), PkMAP, PML (3 each) and NP (2). One lawmaker each of BNP-M, JI and PML-F also took part in the budget debate.
In addition to introduction and debate on Finance Bill, the House passed six government bills comprising the Constitution (Twenty-second Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Foreign Exchange Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Corporate Restructuring Companies Bill, 2016; the Financial Institutions (Secured Transactions) Bill, 2016; the Deposit Protection Corporation Bill, 2016 and the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Bill, 2016.
The Constitution (Twenty-second Amendment) Bill, 2016 suggested to change the eligibility criteria for the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and four members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The civil servants and technocrats have now been eligible for appointment as the CEC and ECP members, in addition to serving or retired judges of the superior courts. The bill has set an age limit of 68 years for the CEC and 65 years for the ECP members.
The Foreign Exchange Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2016 aims to further amend the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947 while the Corporate Restructuring Companies Bill, 2016 has the purpose to establish and regulate corporate restructuring companies.
The Financial Institutions (Secured Transactions) Bill, 2016 aims at creating security interests over moveable property and establishing a secured transaction registry. While, the Deposit Protection Corporation Bill, 2016 has the purpose to establish Deposit Protection Corporation, as a subsidiary of the State Bank of Pakistan and for the management and control thereof.
The National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Bill, 2016, passed by the House with majority vote, aimed at establishing institutions and enunciation of mechanisms and procedures so as to provide for effective conservation and efficient use of energy.
The House also witnessed introduction of the Credit Bureaus (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2016. Both the bills were referred to relevant committees for further deliberation.
The Finance Bill, 2016 and the National Command Authority (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016 were laid before the House while the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was withdrawn.
The House also adopted a joint resolution to express sorrow and grief over sad demise of the boxing legend, Muhammad Ali. The House took up 15 Calling Attention Notices (CANs), mostly related to the ranking of Pakistan Higher Education system; sales of sub-standard products at Utility Stores; increase in prices of medicines; unscheduled load-shedding; FATA reforms; pension issues in EOBI; implementation on electoral reforms; construction of an LNG Terminal in obstruction of Bundel Island; reorganization and fresh raising of civil armed forces; lack of facilities in schools at Islamabad; delay in population census; decrease in export of textile; reduction in supply of drinking water by the Military Engineering Service (MES) Department Rawalpindi; import of whey powder and meat affecting local farmers affiliated with livestock and bad effect on the efficacy of drugs due to non-maintenance of temperature.
Two other CANs were deferred which were related to the blockage of almost 400,000 web links by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the job security to teachers and employees of Colony Boards and T&T Colony, Haripur.
The House witnessed presentation of 17 reports of the standing committees while extension in time period was granted for submission of 11 other reports under Rule 194 (1). A report of the Special Committee on privatization of Heavy Electrical Complex (HEC) was laid while four other reports were adopted by the House during the entire session.
The Chairman disallowed presentation of two reports of Standing Committee on Law and Justice, terming them in contravention with the rules. He was of the view that Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Law & Justice cannot attend the Committee’s meetings because he does not have the portfolio of Minister and it is in violation of Article 57 of Constitution as well as 198 (3),165 (1) of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business.
The Senate debated an Adjournment Motion (AM) on drone strike that reportedly killed Mulla Akhtar Mansoor, the former chief of Taliban, in Balochistan on May 22, 2016. Three other AMs on the Indian test of intercept missile, re-verification of CNICs and agreement signed between India, Iran and Afghanistan for development of Iranian Chabahar Port were disposed of after discussion. Six AMs were not admitted for being in contravention with the rules, one was dropped due to absence of the mover while one AM was withdrawn by the mover.
As many as 17 out of 27 Starred Questions were taken up by the House during the first sitting, while Senators raised 40 Supplementary Questions. Of these, 13 were related to the CADD, followed by Aviation Division (5), Establishment Division (4), Climate Change Division (3) and Information Technology (2). One un-starred question was related to each CADD and Cabinet Secretariat. Question Hour was not held in 11 other sittings due to the debate on Finance Bill, 2016.
The lawmakers raised 147 Points of Public Importance that consumed 365 minutes of the session’s time. The House witnessed three walkouts during the session, consuming 19 minutes. The members of ANP, MQM and the entire Opposition staged walkouts over reported mistakes in various clauses of the Constitution (Twenty-second Amendment) Bill, 2016; postponement of Mayoral poll in Karachi and absence of Finance Minister during budget debate.
The Budget of the Senate of Pakistan for FY 2016-17 and the expenditures incurred during the Financial Years 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 were presented before the House, while a motion was adopted to covert the House into a Committee of the Whole to prepare policy guidelines in light of the emerging regional realities and the role of United States in Asia.
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