52% Members participate in 36th National Assembly Session

  • Almost three-fourth agenda items remained unaddressed
  • Points of Order consume 45% of session time

ISLAMABAD, November 28Unfinished agenda, low attendance of Members, lack of Quorum and Points of Order interrupting the regular proceedings marked the 36th session of the National Assembly, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) preliminary report on Monday.

The session lasted 24 hours and 28 minutes for 10 sittings from November 14 to 25, on average meeting two hours and 26 minutes per sitting. Each sitting started with an average delay of 31 minutes

The House could take up only 37% of the agenda items that appeared on the Orders of the Day, primarily due to 203 Points of Order, which consumed 45% of the total session time – 666 of 1,468 minutes.Like previous sessions, the agenda for Private Members’ Day was ambitiously set, making it difficult for the House to complete it in a single sitting.

A total of 49 Points of Order were raised by PMLN Members, 20 PML, 13 MQM, nine ANP, five MMAP, four PPPS and seven by Independent Members. PPPP Members took the floor 96 times on Points of Order, mostly to respond to the opposition’s criticism.None of the Points of Order attracted the Chair’s formal ruling. Without the Chair’s formal ruling, these Points of Order do not lead to any output.

Overall 52% of Members – 176 male and 47 female — participated in the session by submitting agenda items on the Orders of the Day or by taking part in the debates. Male parliamentarians appeared to be less active than their female counterparts. Their participation remained 49% of their total membership at 263 while female participation remained at 61 % of their total membership at 77

A party-wise analysis shows that 88% of MQM parliamentarians took part in the proceedings, followed by PMLN’s 58%, MMAP’s 50%, PPPP’s 48%, ANP’s 46%, PML’s 43% and 20% of the PMLF.

The attendance of Members remained low. Since the National Assembly Secretariat does not make the attendance record public, FAFEN conducts a headcount of Members at the beginning and end of each sitting and documents the actual time spent on the floor of the House by Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. During the session, 42 Members on an average were present at the beginning of each sitting and 63 at the end.

The Prime Minister attended seven sittings for 23% (338 minutes) and the Leader of the Opposition was present during five sittings for 17% (253 minutes) of the session time.The Speaker chaired the proceedings for 22% of the session time; the Deputy Speaker 30%; and the remaining 48% of time was presided over by Members of Panel of Chairpersons. The Parliamentary Leaders of ANP, PMLF and MMAP did not attend any of the sittings, while leaders of PPPS attended seven,BNPA and NPP three each, MQM and PML leaders attended one sitting each.

Although the Quorum was visibly lacking at various stages of the session, it was not pointed out by any of the Legislators.

The National Assembly passed seven Government Bills and one Private Members’ Bill. The House took up 10 Calling Attention Notices raised by 11male and 11 female Members.Five were sponsored by PPPP Members, four by PMLN Members and one was jointly tabled by PPPP and PMLN Members.

A total of 54 out of 161 starred questions were taken up, at an average of 5.4 questions per sitting. The Members asked 150 supplementary questions.

Members debated the Motions under Rule 259 on shortage of urea fertilizer and reducing funds for Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal for 34 minutes, and the Matter of Public Importance about human rights for 26 minutes. However, the House did not address the Adjournment Motion on deteriorating condition of Pakistan Railways.

The House witnessed three walkouts and one boycott. PMLN Members walked out of the House to protest against shortage of urea fertilizer on three occasions, and boycotted the entire 10th sitting over the memogate. MQM Members walked out once in protest over Sindh Information Minister accompanying the former provincial Interior Minister to London.

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 42 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.