48% MNAs did not participate in 29th NA Session

46% time spent on debate on Adjournment motions and Points of Order

ISLAMABAD, March 09, 2010: Almost 52% MNAs participated in the 29th Session of the Lower House that left more than half (55%) of the agenda items listed on the Orders of the Day unaddressed, primarily due to excessive use of Points of Order and debate on Adjournment Motions says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its Report based on direct observation of the 29th Session of the 13th National Assembly that concluded on March 04, 2011.

The Members raised 129 (27%) Points of Order utilizing 477 minutes, out of the total Session time of 1,750 minutes. The debate on Adjournment Motions took 19% of the Session time, while 5% was taken up by breaks. Approximately 48% of the time was given to the regular agenda listed on the Orders of the Day. The House did not take up two Government Bills, three Private Members’ Bills, 81 Starred Questions, seven Resolutions, 10 Motions Under Rule 259 and three Matters of Public Importance which were itemized on the Orders of the Day.

In line with the trend followed in the previous Sessions, the agenda for Private Members’ Day during the 29th Session was also set up over ambitiously, which is actually impossible to take up within a span of a regular sitting. Listing of too many agenda items for Private Members’ Days and the debate on the murder of the Federal Minister for Minorities were amongst the reasons, the National Assembly did not address 45% of the agenda.

The National Assembly suspended the regular parliamentary agenda under rule 286 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, 2007 to debate on the assassination of the Federal Minister for Minorities. The entire last sitting was dedicated especially for this purpose. As many as 31 Members spoke on the issue – nine of the PPPP, eight each of the PMLN and PML, two of the MQM, one MMAP and two Independents. The Minister for Interior concluded the debate assuring the House of a transparent judicial inquiry into the killing of the Minister.

Since the National Assembly Secretariat does not share information 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. The attendance of Members remained low during the Session, a total of 68 Members on average were present at the outset of each sitting and 56 at the end.

The Prime Minister attended all the 10 sittings of the 29th Session, being present for 320 minutes or 18% of the total Session time. The Leader of the Opposition remained absent during the entire Session. The Speaker chaired the proceedings for 33% of the Session time, while 18% of Session time was presided over by the Deputy Speaker. The Speaker was absent during three out of ten sittings, while the Deputy Speaker was present during three sittings. Parliamentary Leader of the ANP did not attend any of the sittings, while those of PPPS attended nine sittings, PML five sittings, MMAP three sitting and MQM and PMLF two sittings each, and NPP leader attended one sitting.

Speeches by Members and Treasury rejoinders on Points of Order (POs) took 26% of the total Session time, which is otherwise allocated for agenda items on the Order of the Day. Unless the Speaker gives a formal ruling on a Point of Order, these long stretched speeches do not contribute to the agenda. None of the raised Points of Order attracted Speaker’s formal ruling, which is required under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business. The Members exchanged arguments over the Law and Order situation in the country, Balochistan Issue, increase in the petroleum prices, energy related concerns and the business of the House, etc.  As many as 26 Members of the PPPP, 14 each of the PMLN and PML, six of the MQM, four of the ANP, two of the MMAP, one of the PPPS and three Independents raised Points of Order. Government responded to 12 Points of Orders – three each pertaining to Law and Order situation and the Balochistan Issue and one each regarding foreign affairs, employment, OGRA, communications, petroleum prices and development funds.

During the 29th Session the government succeeded in passing three of the five bills that appeared on the Orders of the Day. Whereas, one out the four Private Member’s Bills itemized on the agenda was addressed by the House. The National Assembly passed three government bills namely the National Defence University Bill, 2009, the Banking Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2010 and the Federal Board of Revenue (Amendment) Bill, 2010

Of 18 Calling Attention Notices listed on the Orders of the Day, the House took up only 11 raised by 28 male and 15 female Members – ten sponsored by PMLN Members, four by PPPP Members, two by MQM Members, one by PML Members and one jointly tabled by PPPP Members and an Independent Member.

The Adjournment Motion on the prevailing law and order situation in the country was admitted for debate during the Session on the initiative of the PMLN and PML Members. The Motion was debated upon for 91 minutes during the third and fifth sittings.

As many as 115 starred (requiring oral answers) questions were put forth by Members during the 29th Session. A total of 34 of 115 starred questions were taken up in the Assembly at an average of 3.4 questions per sitting. The Members asked a total of 89 supplementary questions. Ministerial Absence was observed during four sittings of the Session.

The House witnessed three walkouts during the course of the entire Session. The Parliamentary Parties of the PMLN, PML and MQM protested and staged a walkout against the increase in the prices of petroleum products. At another instance, an Independent Member staged a walkout against no actions or policies being devised by the Government for the putting a halt to Drone Attacks in FATA. During the 9th sitting, all the Parliamentary Parties staged a procession on the assassination of the Federal Minister for Minorities.

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 44 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.

The Daily Factsheet is based on direct observation of National Assembly proceedings conducted by Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), a member organization of FAFEN.