- 43% time consumed by Points of Order, Breaks, Adjournment Motions and Protests
- National Assembly spends 57% of time on regular agenda, passes 31 bills
- Prime Minister attends 97 out of 109 sittings
- Average attendance of 72 Members at start and 80 at end of each sitting
ISLAMABAD, April 5, 2011: The National Assembly was observed to be more productive during the third parliamentary year (March 2010 – March 2011) in terms of taking up agenda items and focusing on legislation. Besides, passing landmarks in the form of the 18th and 19th Constitutional Amendments, the Assembly passed 29 out of 94 bills that came on the agenda during the third parliamentary year.
Legislation is a core business of the National Assembly and one of the prime output indicators of any legislature. In legislation, the National Assembly achieved an output rate of 33% during the third parliamentary year, which is better than the 25% output rate registered during the second parliamentary year, according to FAFEN’s Preliminary Report of the Annual Appraisal of the National Assembly.
FAFEN analysis is based on direct observation of the proceedings of the National Assembly sessions held in the third parliamentary year (March 11, 2010 and March 4, 2011). FAFEN assesses the performance of the legislature using a five-pronged criterion – Transparency, Participation, Responsiveness, Output and Order and Institutionalization.
Of the 30 government bills passed in third parliamentary year, a total of 15 were new pieces of legislation, whereas, 15 were amendment bills seeking changes to the already approved laws. Only one of 34 Private Members’ Bills present on the agenda was passed, during the third parliamentary year.
If compared with the second parliamentary year, the National Assembly registered improvement on many counts. The National Assembly met for 109 sittings during the third parliamentary year as compared to 107 sittings held during last year. The National Assembly spent 30% more time in executing regular agenda during the third year, than the time spent during second parliamentary year.
In executive oversight function, a total of 130 Calling Attention Notices appeared on the Orders of the Day during the third parliamentary year, as compared to 120 CANs presented during the second parliamentary year. While the number CANs increased, the Questions posted by Members decreased from 3,732 during the second parliamentary year to 3,339 in third year, registering an 11% decrease.
The National Assembly held a total of 109 sittings during the third Parliamentary Year and met for 347 hours and 27 minutes. The average time of each sitting was three hours and 12 minutes. The proceedings of the Lower House remained suspended for 28 hours and 09 minutes due to breaks for prayers, food and other reasons.
While the National Assembly registered a significant improvement in its core function of legislation during the third parliamentary year, there was a slight improvement in usage of session time for addressing the listed agenda items. The list of agenda items that appeared on the Orders of the Day for several sittings was often too ambitious to dispose off in a day. Members were observed to waste a lot of Assembly’s time through indulging themselves in non-productive political debates during the year. Speeches by Members and Treasury rejoinders on non–productive agenda items took a large portion of the Assembly’s time, dipping into the time that was otherwise allocated for agenda items on the Order of the Day.
Almost 43% of the total time of the Assembly proceedings was taken up by non-agenda items or non-productive agenda items – Points of Order, Breaks, Protests and Adjournment Motions etc. – leaving behind 57% time to take on regular agenda. Excessive use of points of order took up a major portion of the National Assembly’s time. It seems that lack of adequate space in the regulatory framework to raise constituency-related issues compelled Members to use Points of Order to highlight the local issues in the assembly. As many as 212 Members raised 1,316 Points of Order during the third parliamentary year. None of the raised Points of Order attracted the Speaker’s formal ruling. These Points of Order consumed 4,687 minutes (22%) of the total time the National Assembly met during the year. The opportunity to raise PO was frequently used by both treasury and opposition Members to deliver long speeches on burning political issues. Unless the Speaker gives a formal ruling on a Point of Order, speeches and rejoinders do not contribute to any Assembly output.
The National Assembly witnessed a total of 59 instances of protests, boycotts and walkouts by the Members during the year.
The attendance of Members in majority of the sittings was observed to be low. Since the National Assembly Secretariat does not provide information to media and public on attendance of Members, FAFEN conducts the headcount of Members at the beginning and end of each sitting and documents actual time spent on the floor of the House by Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. During the third parliamentary year, as many as 72 Members, on an average, were present at the beginning and 80 at the adjournment of each sitting.
The Speaker was not present during 38 out of the 109 sittings, whereas the Deputy Speaker was not present in the House during 24 sittings. The Speaker chaired 36% of the National Assembly sittings’ time; the Deputy Speaker presided over 38% of the sittings’ time; and the remaining 26% time was chaired by Members of Panel of Chairpersons.
The Prime Minister maintained his tradition of attending most of the sittings. He attended 97 sittings and was present for a total of 5,115 minutes (25% of the total time). The Leader of Opposition was present in 48 sittings, being present for 3,427 minutes (16% of the total time). On average, the Prime Minister attended each sitting for approximately 47 minutes, whereas, the Leader of Opposition attended each sitting for 31 minutes.
As for the attendance of parliamentary leaders, the Parliamentary Leader of the PPPS – a single Member parliamentary party- attended most of the sittings held during the third parliamentary year, being present in 84 out of the total 109 sittings (77%), followed by the Parliamentary Leader of the PML being present for 38 sittings (35%), PMLF for 36 sittings (33%), MQM for 27 sittings (25%), MMAP for 23 sittings (21%), ANP for 18 sittings (17%) and NPP for two sittings (2%).
The participation of the women Members in discussions was higher than their male counterparts. The women Members belonging to the PMLN, PPPP and PML elected on reserved seats were particularly more active in bringing agenda items and participating in debates. Active participation of the women Members is evident from the number of Private Members’ Bills, Questions, Resolutions, Motions and Calling Attention Notices submitted by them.
About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 43 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.
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