257th Session: Senate Takes Up Heavy Agenda, Passes Four Bills

Chairman Reserves Ruling on Govt’s Decision to Place Five Regulatory Bodies under Ministries’ Control

Prime Minister, PTI Parliamentary Leader Remain Absent Throughout Session

The Senate took up heavy agenda during five sittings held between December 19, 2016 and December 23, 2016. It passed four bills, adopted three resolutions, and witnessed introduction of six legislative proposals that were referred to the relevant committees.

The House also discussed government decision to place five regulatory bodies under the control of ministries after suo motu notice taken by the Senate Chairman. The Federal Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid defended the government’s position on the subject during the debate. However, the Chair reserved his ruling over.

With an average of 15% Senators present at the start and 17% at the end of each sitting, the session transacted most of the agenda, appearing on Orders of the Day. A maximum of 70% members, on average, attended the session along with the presence of two minority lawmakers.

Each sitting, on average, started two minutes behind the schedule and continued for four hours and one minute. The Prime Minister did not attend any of the sittings. An effective system of governance is the one where elected Head of the Government is engaged in the parliamentary interventions on a regular basis. Sub-rule (2A) of Rule 61 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate states that the Chief Executive shall attend the Prime Minister’s Zero Hour (last hour of the sitting) at least once a week when the Senate is in session.

On the other hand, the Chairman attended the entire sittings and presided over 72% of the session’s time. The Deputy Chairman attended three sittings and chaired 13% of the proceedings time while 13 percent of the sittings were chaired by a Member of the Panel of Presiding Officers and two percent time was consumed in breaks.

The Leader of the House remained present in all the sittings and attended 47% of the session’s time, while the Opposition Leader attended three sittings and consumed 24% of the session’s time.

The parliamentary leaders of PkMAP, PML-N, MQM, PML-F, BNP-M and PPPP attended all five sittings followed by BNP-A (4), JUI-F and PML (3 each), ANP, NP and JI (2 each). Parliamentary Leader of PTI did not attend any of the sittings.

The House passed four bills, including the Corporate Rehabilitation Bill, 2015; the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Companies (Appointment of Legal Advisers) (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the National Command Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The session witnessed introduction of six Private Members’ bills, including the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Islamabad Capital Territory Private Educational Institutions (Registration and Regulation) (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Amendment of Article 251); the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Substitution of Article 251); the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Bill, 2016 and the Public Private Partnership Authority Bill, 2016. A bill – the Drug Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2016 – was withdrawn by its mover.

The House adopted three resolutions during the reporting period. These were related to withdrawing high denomination note of Rs. 5,000 from circulation; augmenting efforts for rehabilitation of quake victims in Balochistan and empowering Senate of Pakistan to pass the Money Bill, including the Finance Bill.

Two resolutions were dropped due to absence of their movers. These resolutions demanded fixation of Rs. 20,000 as minimum salary of Government as well as non-Government employees and wanted to designate a place for holding public meetings and agitations by the political parties in Islamabad.

The House discussed an Adjournment Motion (AM) regarding Inquiry Commission’s report on terror incident at Civil Hospital Quetta on August 8, 2016. As many as six AMs were dropped due to absence of their movers, four were termed out of order for being in contravention with the rules while one motion was withdrawn by its mover.

The House took up eight Calling Attention Notices (CANs) including 3000 posts lying vacant in Federal Government Educational Institutions; the requirements for NGOs and Foreign Delegates to get NOC for visiting/working in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; the non-protection of Margalla Hills National Park; the non-functioning of Central Laboratory for Environmental Analysis and Networking (CLEAN); the non-availability of burial and funeral place for the Hindu Community residing in Islamabad; the inconvenience caused to the residents of Islamabad due to the blockage of roads by the Government and Private Offices and Embassies located in the residential areas of Islamabad; crash of PIA ATR plane coming from Chitral to Islamabad on December 7, 2016 and the Indo-Pak trade despite repeated violations of ceasefire by the Indian forces at LoC resulting into deaths and injuries to dozens of innocent Pakistani citizens.

Three motions under Rule 218  were discussed which were related to safeguarding of religious freedom in the country, planning and performance of the Capital Development Authority and tests for recruitments in the Government Departments through NTS and other agencies. The House also discussed the rights of minorities through a motion on religious freedom in the country.

Two other motions regarding performance of the Estate Office, Islamabad and the role of Pakistan Sports Board in promotion of sports in the country were not taken up. Another commenced motion about constantly lowering water table in the country was also not discussed by the House.

A Privilege Motion of PML-F lawmaker was considered and forwarded to the relevant committee. It was against the Chairman of Capital Development Authority (CDA) for non-implementation of the direction of Standing Committee regarding 1400 acres of land of NARC.

The House witnessed presentation of 10 reports of various committees of the House while a motion was passed under Rule 194 (1) to extend the presentation period of report on the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Bill, 2016.

The House passed a motion under sub-rule (2) of rule 203 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012. It was about consideration of the Right to Information Bill, 2016 by Select Committee as well as its composition. Another motion under Rule 60 regarding non-implementation of 5% minorities’ quota by the Evacuee Trust Property Board was discussed.

Under Rule 278, the House approved an amendment in rule 203 to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Senate 2012.

A total of 119 Starred Questions appeared on the agenda. Of these, 27 were related to the Ministry of Interior and Narcotics Control; Ministry of Capital Administration and Development Division (16),  Ministry of Finance (14), Federal Education and Professional Training (8), Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Railways and States and Frontier Regions (6 each).

The House was adjourned once after lack of quorum pointed out by MQM lawmaker during – sitting. The entire opposition staged a walkout for 51 minutes in 5th (last) sitting over absence of ministers as well as relevant authorities to respond to a Calling Attention Notice (CAN) related to PIA ATR plane crash on December 7, 2016.

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