21st Session of NA lasts 21 hours and 7 minutes

ISLAMABAD, April 10, 2010: Only 23 MNAs participated in the debate on the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Bill, 2010 during the 21st session of the National Assembly that prorogued on April 9, 2010, says Free and fair Election Network in its Preliminary Report on the 21st Session of the National Assembly.

The Lower House that lasted four sittings remained in session for 21 hours and seven minutes. The House took 15 hours to pass the 102 amendments to the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment Bill, 2010). Only 23 MNAs were given the floor to speak on various amendments of the constitutional amendment bill. Out of the 23 MNAs 2010, 6 Members belonged to PML, 5 to PPPP, 3 to PMLN, 2 to MQM, 3 to ANP and 2 Independents.

A total of 20 male and 3 female members actively took part in the debate. Female parliamentarians moved more amendments to the Bill than their male counterparts who mostly praising the Government for evolving political consensus on the Bill.

Of 23 MNAs, 8 members belonged to Punjab, 5 each to Sindh and Balochistan, 4 to NWFP and 1 to Federally Administered Tribal Areas

The 21st Session of the National Assembly started on April 6, 2010 with 116 Members present at the outset. The Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Bill, 2010 was laid before the House. The participation of MNAs in the 21st session was relatively higher than earlier sessions during the ongoing parliamentary year. The highest attendance recorded was during the third sitting that voted on the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Bill, 2010.

The 2010 underwent debate for almost six hours with 18 MNAs speaking on the proposed amendments during the second sitting. Each MNA addressed on an average of 18 minutes on the Bill.

During the course of the third sitting, 8 MNAs including the Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition spoke on the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Bill, 2010. A total of 6 amendments were proposed by 5 Members of PML and 1 member of PMLN, but were rejected by the House. The debate on these amendments took a total of 60 minutes. Six Members spoke on the issue, addressing on an average of 10 minutes each.

Four legislators of PML opposed the amendment in Article 3 of the Constitution, which deals with the renaming of NWFP as “Khyber Paktunkhwa”. PML legislators were supported by a group of three PMLN MNAs from Hazara Division on the issue. On the same occasion 5 of these MPs staged a token walkout, when the voting was taking place against the amendment in Article 3. A female parliamentarian of PML proposed to enhance women representation in Parliament to 20 percent. One of PML female MNA also opposed an amendment waiving the party-election conditions within political parties. A member of PMLN opposed the clause 65, an amendment in article 172 of the Constitution dealing with insertion of names “High Court” and “Islamabad”).

Sr No. Article of the Bill debated Gender of Members who opposed Article of the Bill Political Party Affiliation Vote Count  
For Against  
1 Amendment of Article 3 of the Constitution.(Remaining the Province of NWFP as “Kyber Paktunkhwa”, Baluchistan as Balochistan and Sind as Sindh) Male PML 264 20  
Male PML  
Female PML  
Female PML  
Female PML  
2 Substitution of Article 17 of the Constitution (Freedom of association) Female PML 278 6  
3 Amendment of Article 25 of the Constitution (the word “alone” occurring at the end shall be omitted) Female PML 265 4  
4 Substitution of Article 51 of the Constitution (Representation of Women in the Parliament) Female PML 276 4  
5 Amendment of Article 172 of the Constitution (insertions of names “High Court” and “Islamabad Capital Territory) Male PMLN 281 1  
6 Amendment of Fourth Schedule to the Constitution (Four Legislative List) Female PML 270 1  

The 21st session that lasted 21 hours and 7 minutes suspended all other scheduled business during the first three sittings to exclusively debate the 18th Amendment Bill. The sitting time was also enhanced to as long as seven and half hours on the third day. Normal sittings last three to four hours. None of the sittings started on the stipulated time, registering a delay of 55 minutes on average.

The Speaker of the House was present during 3 of 4 sittings. Deputy Speaker remained absent during 1 of 4 sittings. The members of Panel of Chairpersons were present in all sittings of the 21st Session. The Prime Minister was present during all sittings. However, Leader of the Opposition did not attend 2 sittings.

The parliamentary leader of ANP was present during all sittings of the 21st session. Leaders MQM, PPPS and PMLF were absent during 1 out of 4 sittings. The Parliamentary Leader of PML remained absent during 2 sittings, while the leaders of MMAP and NPP remained absent during the session. Chief Whips of PPPP, PMLN, PML, MQM, and MMAP were present during the entire session. Chief Whips ANP, PMLF and PPPS were absent during 1 out of 4 sittings. BNPA and NPP chief whips did not attend the entire session.

A total of 22 Points of Order were raised during the 21st session which consumed 1 hour and 19 minutes of the sitting proceedings. As many as 14 Members applied for leave to be absent from the session proceedings.

A total of 16 starred questions were raised during the session, these were asked by 9 male and 7 female Members. PMLN raised the (10) highest questions, followed by PPPP (4), MQM and PML raised a question each. The Question Hour was held only during the last sitting

The Session witnessed 2 protests in the 2 sitting of the 21st session; PML MNA staged a walkout on ‘non-representation of any minority Member in Constitutional Reforms Committee’. On the second occasion another PML Member registered his protest against the proposal of renaming NWFP. At another instance in the third sitting, 4 members of PMLN walked out on the amendment of renaming the name of NWFP as “Kyber Paktunkhwa”.

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 30 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.