- Low attendance of lawmakers keeps haunting Provincial Assembly
- Leader of the House (Chief Minister) did not attend any of the sittings
The 23rd session of the Punjab Assembly remained productive in terms of legislation but it completely ignored the public importance issues highlighted by the lawmakers. The House transacted a heavy legislative agenda amidst the absence of the Leader of the House (Chief Minister) who did not attend any sitting of the session.
The legislation comprised 14 Government and two Private Members’ Bills, including five ordinances which were promulgated during last two months when the Assembly was not in session. However, a number of Adjournment Motions, Calling Attention Notices and Zero Hour Notices were still pending when the session was prorogued on September 2, 2016.
Besides making recommendations to the government on public issues, the House adopted a number of resolutions to express its opinion on various happenings, including incidents of terrorism and anti-Pakistan rhetoric of Altaf Hussain and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the backdrop of reported increase in child abductions, the government also arranged a general discussion on law and order where the Law Minister put the crime statistics before the lawmakers. The Opposition was also given the opportunity to respond to the government claims.
Duration and Attendance
Every sitting of 23rd session started well behind the scheduled time. The minimum delay in the commencement of the proceedings was 56 minutes while the maximum one hour and 57 minutes. On average, every sitting began an hour and 19 minutes late and continued for two hours and 16 minutes. The cumulative duration of the 10-sitting session was 22 hours and 42 minutes.
The attendance trends were also not very encouraging as only 20 members were present at the outset and 48 at the adjournment of a sitting, on average. The Leader of the House remained absent throughout the session while the Leader of the Opposition attended nine out of 10 sittings and remained present in 60% of the proceedings’ cumulative duration. The entire proceedings were presided over by the Speaker except for an hour and 21 minutes when a member of the Panel of Chairpersons presided over the sitting. The Deputy Speaker was present in three sittings but did not chair any of them. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) member was the most regular among all parliamentary leaders, who attended six sittings followed by PPPP and PML-Z leaders who attended two and one sittings respectively.
The Punjab Assembly passed five government bills during the session, while 11 legislative proposals (five ordinances, four government bills and two private members’ bills) were referred to the relevant standing committees following their introduction.
The House adopted 10 resolutions during the session, including five supplementary resolutions. Meanwhile, four resolutions were deferred and two were disposed of due to the absence of the movers.
Besides offering condolences on the death of social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi, the House passed resolutions condemning two incidents of terrorism in Quetta and Peshawar and anti-Pakistan statements of MQM founder Altaf Hussain and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Through Private Members’ resolutions, the House urged the provincial government to reduce prices of medicines, facilitate persons with disabilities in public transport, set up Water and Sanitation Agency in Bahawalpur, repair river banks and clear the drains in wake of rainy seasons.
Committee Reports/Government Papers
Various standing committees of the Punjab Assembly presented their reports to the House on the matters referred to them. The government also presented the performance reports of the Parks & Horticulture Authority and the Development Authorities of Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Rawalpindi. The House also approved 34 motions seeking extension in time for presentation of the committee reports.
The lawmakers brought 31 Adjournment Motions on the matters of urgent public importance. Three motions were disposed of due to the absence of movers while the remaining AMs remained unanswered and were kept pending. The government was unable to respond to these motions throughout the session. The lawmakers had raised the matters related to agriculture, health, education, governance and law & order.
The lawmakers, belonging to the ruling party PML-N, submitted 12 Adjournment Motions followed by PTI (10), PML (8) and JI (1).
The House held an-hour-long discussion on law and order in the province during last sitting of the session. The Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs briefed the House on the efforts of the government to maintain the rule of law. The Leader of the Opposition and two other lawmakers also spoke on the subject and highlighted the issues related to the subject.
Calling Attention Notices
PTI and PML legislators submitted five Calling Attention Notices to draw the attention of the government towards incidents of robberies, murders and street crimes. One of these notices was disposed of due to the absence of the mover while the remaining notices were kept pending by the House on the request of the government.
A total of 330 Questions (196 Starred and 134 Unstarred) were admitted for answers during the reporting session. The Rules of Procedure require the ministers to answer a Starred Question orally as well as in writing while the Unstarred Questions are to be replied only in writing. However, the Punjab Assembly took up only 74 (37%) Starred Questions for oral answers while 47 Starred Questions were disposed of due to the absence of the movers and 27 others were deferred. Furthermore, at least 17 Questions (nine Starred and eight Unstarred) were not replied in writing.
The lawmakers raised five matters of public importance during Zero Hour. The House disposed of two of these matters while three were deferred for further consideration. The matters concerning crime rate in Faisalabad, disease breakout in Bahar Colony Lahore, traffic jams near FC College, commercialization of roads in Wapda Town and floods in Layyah were highlighted during Zero Hour.
Nine lawmakers (six of PML-N and three of PTI) submitted Privilege Motions against various public servants for misbehaving with them. The House referred eight of these privilege motions to the Committee on Privileges to review the complaints while one motion was kept pending by the Chair.
Points of Order
The lawmakers raised 89 Points of Order (POs) consuming two hours and 14 minutes (about 10 percent of the proceedings’ duration). Most of the POs were concerned with the constituency matters, political developments and current affairs.
The quorum remained an issue for the proceedings of Punjab Assembly throughout 23rd session. The lawmakers pointed out quorum six times during five sittings. Once, the sitting had to be adjourned due to lack of quorum while on other occasions it was completed after the ringing of bells for five minutes.
The Opposition parties in the Punjab Assembly staged two walkouts during the session. These walkouts were instigated by the murder of a PTI worker and the alleged partisan behavior of the Chair. The Opposition also protested on the floor of the House once against the silence of the federal cabinet over anti-Pakistan statements of Indian Prime Minister. The sole lawmaker of JI staged an individual walkout as well to protest against the sale of liquor in the province.
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