33rd NA Session Only 47 Members take part in debate on law and order

ISLAMABAD, August 15, 2011: The 33rd session of the National Assembly spent half the time on discussing the law and order, especially in Karachi and Quetta, but only 14% Members took part in it.

A total of 47 Members – 44 male Members and three female Members – took part in the debate on law and order.  Out of the 47 Members, 13 were from PMLN, 11 from PPPP, seven from MQM, four from ANP, two from MMAP, and the only Member of PPPS. Six Independents also took part in the debate, according to FAFEN’s preliminary report on 33rd session of National Assembly that concluded on August 12, 2011.

The House adopted a unanimous Resolution to set up an all parties Parliamentary Committee to probe into incidents of violence in Karachi and Quetta. The Federal Minister for Interior, who rounded up the debate, assured the House the committee would present its report in a month’s time.

Though the session was primarily called to dispose of the government’s agenda, the House decided to debate the agenda introduced by a Member from the opposition benches.

The National Assembly met for 29 hours and 16 minutes during the 10 sittings. On average every sitting lasted for two hours and 16 minutes. Similarly on average every sitting started 51 minutes behind the scheduled time. The shortest sitting lasted eight minutes (August 06th, 2011) and the longest 4 hours and 41 minutes (August 1, 2011).

While half the session’s time was used by the debate on law and order, more than one-fifth or 287 minutes of the session were consumed by speeches by Members and Treasury rejoinders on the Points of Order (POs). But none of the POs attracted the Speaker’s mandatory ruling. Members exchanged arguments about issues including the Business of the House, and the prevailing energy crisis.

FAFEN observed low Members’ attendance during the Session.  Since the National Assembly Secretariat does not share information about Members’ attendance, FAFEN conducts a headcount of Members at the beginning and end of each sitting. An average of only 70 Members were present at the beginning of each sitting, and 79 at the adjournment of each sitting.

The Prime Minister attended six sittings. He did not, however, attend all of each sitting, being present for 251 minutes or 18% of the total session time. The Leader of the Opposition was absent during the entire session. The Parliamentary Leaders of the ANP and PMLF did not attend the any of the sittings. However the Parliamentary Leaders of the PPPS, NPP, MMAP, MQM and PML attended eight, seven, four, three and two sittings respectively.

The Speaker chaired proceedings for 35% of the session time, while the Deputy Speaker presided over 30% of session time. The remaining 35% session time was chaired by Members of Panel of Chairpersons.

Four per cent of the session time was consumed by protests and walkouts by various parliamentary parties.

The House witnessed seven walkouts during the session. The MMAP, MQM and PMLN walked out of the House thrice in protest over law and order in Karachi and Quetta. The PMLN alone staged a walkout on the deteriorating condition of Pakistan Railways. In another instance, Members of the PMLN and ANP staged a walkout against increasing prices of POL products. The parliamentary parties of MQM and ANP, and a Member of the PPPP expressed their reservations regarding the resumption of Local Government system in Sindh

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 42 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.