48th Session of NA: 62 percent of agenda left unaddressed

ISLAMABAD, December 21, 2012: The 48th session of National Assembly unanimously passed the Fair Trail Bill 2012 as the House witnessed low attendance leaving 62% of the agenda appearing on the Orders of the Day unaddressed, says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its preliminary report.

The House did not take up five government and six private members’ bills, six resolutions, 166 starred questions, seven motions under rule 259, a matter of public importance and two proposed amendments in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the National Assembly.

The agenda was overshadowed by issues such as law and order, energy crisis and matters regarding railways and PIA. The House debated the motion under rule 87 about shortage, low pressure, and non-supply of gas/CNG in the country for 14 minutes, and also took up a calling attention notice on the gas outages.

The National Assembly passed four treasury-backed bills – the Pakistan Coinage (Amendment) Bill 2012, the Investigation for Fair Trial Bill 2012, the Maritime Security Agency Bill 2012 and the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan Bill. The fair trial bill was passed after most of the amendments proposed by the opposition PMLN and the government ally MQM were incorporated. The PMLN proposed 33 and MQM 31 amendments.

The lower house adopted a resolution to declare Malala Yousafzai as ‘Daughter of Pakistan’. This resolution was presented as supplementary agenda.

The session met for 22 hours and 42 minutes from December 10-21, with each sitting on average meeting for two hours and 16 minutes and witnessing an average delay of 37 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 48 members were present at the beginning and 72 at end of each sitting. At least seven of the total ten minority members were present in each sitting.

The Prime Minister attended two sittings for 166 minutes (12% of the session time) while the Leader of the Opposition attended four sittings for 264 (19% of the session time). The Deputy Speaker chaired 68% of the time, while the remaining time (32%) was presided over by the members of panel of chairpersons.

The MMAP, PMLF and ANP parliamentary leaders did not attend the entire session, while those of the PPPS and BNPA, single member parties, attended four each, NPP three and PML and MQM leaders attended one sitting each.

A total of 182 Points of Order raised during the session consumed 498 minutes (32% of total time). However, none of the Points of Order attracted the Chair’s ruling. Unless the Chair gives a formal ruling, it does not lead to any assembly output.

Members submitted 224 starred questions, of which 58 were taken up by the House. Eighty-two supplementary questions were asked. In the last sitting the Question Hour was not held as the relevant ministries had not provided answers to 25 questions on the agenda. After a walkout by legislators over this issue, the Chair referred the matter to the Standing Committee on Privileges.

Thirteen out of 20 Calling Attention Notices were addressed during the session. The House witnessed two walkouts. A PML minority member staged a walkout protesting over no action being taken against an accused of rape of a minority girl. PMLN, MQM and ANP legislators staged a walkout for not getting replies to 25 of the 39 starred questions appearing on the agenda