50% legislators participate in 18th National Assembly Session

ISLAMABAD, February 2, 2010: Almost fifty percent legislators participated in the proceedings of the Eighteenth Session of the National Assembly that concluded on January 29, 2010, reports the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its Parliament Performance Update-IX.

The participation of MNAs i.e. 46 percent in the eighteenth session was relatively higher than earlier sessions during the ongoing parliamentary year. The session met for 50 hours and one minute over the 15 sittings. However, every sitting started late by an average of 28 minutes.

Eighteen bills were passed during the 15 sittings of the session. However, the House did not take up 42 percent of the agenda items listed for parliamentary business on the Orders of the Day.

Female members continued to show more interest in parliamentary proceedings. Out of 18 Private Member Bills tabled, 12 were laid before the House by female members.

As many as 646 questions were raised by MNAs during the course of the session, of which 420 were responded to by the relevant ministers. However, relevant ministers were absent at 9 out of 12 question hours.

Some key observations of the Eighteenth Session are given below:

PART 1: Parliamentary Transparency

  •  FAFEN observers were not provided with official accreditation by the National Assembly Secretariat, despite previous formal requests.
  •  Orders of the Day were consistently available to legislators and others.
  •  Information about the parliamentary calendar, draft legislation under consideration, Members’ attendance and the establishment   of a quorum, and other important matters was partially or entirely unavailable to FAFEN observers and the public.
  •  95 documents were provided to the House in response to questions by different Ministry’s representatives.

PART 2: Participation

  •  The 15 daily sittings of the Eighteenth Session of the National Assembly included a total of 50 hours and 01 minute of parliamentary business.
  • Each sitting started late by an average of 28 minutes.
  • The average length of a sitting was 3 hours and 20 minutes. The shortest sitting lasted 1 hours and 34 minutes.
  • The Speaker of the House was not present at 3 out of the 15 sittings.
  • The Prime Minister was present in all sittings of the Eighteenth Session.
  • 83 Members appealed for leave to be absent from parliamentary sittings.
  • Almost 46% of MNAs (155 Members out of a total of 338) took part in parliamentary discussions.

PART 3: Representation and Responsiveness

  •  17 out of 30 Calling Attention Notices on the Orders of the Day were discussed. The largest number of these notices (3 each) was put forward to Ministry of Health and Ministry of Water and Power.
  • A total of 18 PPPP Members, 17 PML-N Members, 5 MQM members, 6 PML Members and 1 MMAP Members put forward CANs.
  • Relevant ministers were absent at 9 out of the 15 sittings during the question hour.
  • 646 questions were put forward during the Question Hour, which was held on 12 of 15 sittings during the session.
  • 258 starred questions were put forward along with 388 unstarred questions. A total of 306 supplementary questions were put forward by various members of the Lower House.

PART 4: Output

  •  42 bills were listed on the Orders of the Day for consideration by the House. One of these bills was rejected. Out of the remaining 41, 10 bills were passed.
  • 1 out of 8 private member bills was taken back by the mover while the remainders were referred to Standing Committees.
  • 9 Ordinances were laid in the National Assembly during the course of the Eighteenth session.
  • The Private Member Bills were put forward by 12 female and 6 male members.
  • 4 PPPP, 5 PML-N, 8 PML and 1 MQM representatives moved Private Member Bills. There were multiple movers of the 8 Private Bills.
  • 23 resolutions were on the agenda of the Eighteenth Session, but only six were taken up by the House.

PART 5: Order & Institutionalization

  •  42 % of items on the Orders of the Day (less then half of the business agenda of the House) were not addressed during the session.
  • 175 Points of Order were raised. However, none of them required Speaker’s Ruling, indicating their inappropriateness vis-à-vis procedural definition. A point of order should relate to the interpretation or enforcement of NA rules or such Articles of the Constitution as regulate the business of the Assembly and should raise a question which is within the cognizance of the Speaker.
  • Members of PPPP, PML-N, and PML raised 31, 19, and 9 Points of Order, respectively.
  • In the Eighteenth Session, there were 4 Adjournment Motions.
  • There were nine instances of in-House protests and boycotts.
  • Four Questions of Privilege were raised by 2 PPPP and 1 each by PMLN and PML members.
  • There were 2 instances where different political parties discussed Matters of Public Importance. However, 4 such instances were listed on the Orders of the Day.

This Update is based on direct observation of the Eighteenth Session of the National Assembly. FAFEN has been producing session-wise reports of the National Assembly since December 2008 as part of its Parliament Watch Project in an effort to collect and publish information about the job performance of parliamentarians as well as parliamentary parties by observing and documenting their actions in the legislatures. FAFEN intends to foster informed engagement between constituents and elected representatives in Pakistan by providing objective and statistically-sound information on parliamentary processes and decisions.

 The Daily Factsheet is based on direct observation of the Senate proceedings conducted by Center for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), a member organization of FAFEN