Islamabad, September 14, 2012: The 45th session of the National Assembly was marked by low attendance of Members and protests by government allies and opposition parties, leaving 79% of the agenda appearing on the Orders of the Day unaddressed, says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its preliminary report.
The agenda was overshadowed by issues such as the law and order in the country, increase in the prices of petroleum products, the issuance of the Local Government Ordinance in Sindh, the factory fires killing more than 270 people in Karachi and Lahore and the blasphemous video released in the United States.
Though the House unanimously adopted resolutions on calling for judicial probes into the factory fires in Karachi and Lahore and condemning a blasphemous video aired on social media, it ignored debate on law and order in the country and the increase in petroleum prices.
Only three MNAs out of the total current membership – 341 – spoke on the law and order for 45 minutes, while government allies – ANP and MQM – and the main opposition party – PMLN – staged walkouts on the hike in petroleum prices.
The session met for 20 hours and 57 minutes, from September 3 – 13, with each sitting, an average meeting for two hours and 37 minutes and witnessing an average delay of 67 minutes.
As the National Assembly does not make legislators’ attendance public, FAFEN’s observers make a headcount at the beginning and end of each sitting, and actual time spent by the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. On average less than a quarter of the total members of the House were present at the beginning and end of each sitting. However, at least six of the total ten minority members were present in each sitting.
The Prime Minister attended three sittings for 76 minutes (6% of the session time) while the Leader of the Opposition attended two sittings for 36 (3% of the session time). The Speaker chaired 24% of the time, the deputy speaker 53%, and the remaining time was presided over the members of panel of chairpersons.
The PML and MQM parliamentary leaders did not attend the entire session, while those of the PPPS attended three, PMLF two and MMAP and PMLF leaders attended one sitting each.
The issuance of the local bodies’ ordinance in Sindh saw the government ally – ANP – walked out of the fifth sitting in protest and did not attend the rest of the session. Similarly the opposition benches also expressed reservations on the ordinance. Additionally 16% of the total session time was consumed in five walkouts about the law and order in the country, rising petroleum prices, and the local government ordinance.
The Airports Security Forces (Amendment) Bill was passed while a private members’ bill – the Political Parties Order (Amendment) Bill – calling for facilitating the parties which are financially weak was taken up and sent to the Standing Committee. Three other government bills – the Maritime Security Agency (Amendment) Bill, the Pakistan Development Economics (Amendment) Bill, and the National Tariff Commission (Amendment) Bill – were also introduced.
The assembly did not take up 12 motions under rule 259, ten resolutions, five bills – four private members’ bills and one government – three Calling Attention Notices, 120 starred questions, and a matter of public importance on energy crisis.
A total of 138 points of order were raised which consumed 28% (358 out of total 1,257 minutes) of the session time. None of the points of order attracted the chair’s formal ruling. Unless the chair gives a formal ruling on a point of order, it does not lead to any assembly output.
Members submitted 165 starred questions, of which 45 were taken up by the House. Seventy three supplementary questions were asked.
Thirteen Calling Attention Notices were submitted, of which ten were taken up. Notices which were not taken up related to narcotics, delay in payments of HEC scholarships and forced retirement and postings of 15,000 PTCL employees to far flung areas.
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