60% MNAs Participated in 30th Session

  • 5 Bills including the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill Passed
  • More than one thirds of session time consumed by Points of Order

ISLAMABAD, May 15, 2011: Almost 60% of the Members of the National Assembly participated in the proceedings of the 30th session of the National Assembly, which was marked by unfinished agenda, persistent lack of quorum and long speeches by the Members on Points of Order, according to Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN)’s Preliminary Report on the 30th Session that concluded on May 12, 2011.

A total of 206 Members — 161 male Members and 45 female Members – put forth some agenda and/or participated in the parliamentary debates in the 19 sittings of the session, which lasted 55 hours and 44 minutes. Around 61% of total 264 male Members and 58% of 77 women MNAs actively took part in the proceedings of the National Assembly, which was called to discuss the presidential address.

A party-wise analysis shows highest participation by the MQM, whose 96% Members took part in the proceedings of the session. This was followed by the participation of PMLN’s 70% Members, ANP’s 62%, PPPP’s 51%, PML’s 51% and MMAP’s 50%. A total of 14 Independent Members also actively took part in the proceedings. None of the five PMLF Members participated in the proceedings. Among single-Member parties, the PPPS Member took part in the proceedings, while NPP and BNPA did not participate in the on floor parliamentary activities during the session.

The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill, 2010 was unanimously passed during the course of the session. This important Private Member Bill was tabled by a female Member of the PML, in order to get in place a proper legislation on the use of acid as a weapon, which is often used against women. Besides the passage of this Bill, the Government succeeded in passing four of the nine government bills that they tabled during the session.

The National Assembly met for 55 Hours and 44 Minutes during 19 sittings of 30th session. Each sitting lasted an average of two hours and 56 minutes, with an average 48 minute delay in starting. This session was primarily called for debates on the Presidential Address; only 13% time was dedicated to the debate on the President’s speech.

During the course of the session, the House took up 24 Calling Attention Notices (CANs). These were raised by 55 male and 16 female Members: 11 CANs were jointly sponsored by male and female Members, while the remaining 11 were put forth by groups of male Members. As many as 426 starred questions (i.e. those that require oral answers) were put forth by Members during the 30th session. Of these, 158 were taken up in the Assembly, at an average of 8.3 questions per sitting. Members asked a total of 329 supplementary questions.

Although the participation of Members was relatively better than the previous sessions, the session time was not used adequately.  Almost 60% of the agenda remained unaddressed, primarily due to excessive use of Points of Order. Speeches by Members, and Treasury rejoinders on Points of Order (POs), took 33% of the total session time. This encroached on time allocated for agenda items on the Order of the Day, and the House conducted regular business for almost 19 hours and five minutes. Nine per cent of the session time was consumed by breaks (prayers or food).  Protests consumed another five percent of the session time, while the Abbottabad incident was debated on for 221 minutes.

A total of 284 Points of Order were raised during the Session, utilizing 1,092 minutes. However, none of the Points of Orders raised by Members required the Speaker’s formal ruling. Members exchanged arguments about issues including the Business of the House, Acid Control and Acid Crime Protection legislation, the prevailing energy crisis, drone attacks, Abbottabad killing of Osama bin Laden and the law and order situation in the country. A total of 102 Members raised Points of Order – 37 Members of the PPPP, 20 of the PMLN, 14 of the PML, 12 of the MQM, five of the ANP, four of the MMAP, the single Member of the PPPS, and nine Independents.

The issue of attendance remained persistent during the 30th Session as well. Since the National Assembly Secretariat does not share information about Members’ attendance, FAFEN conducts a headcount of Members at the beginning and end of each sitting. FAFEN also documents the actual time spent on the floor of the House by the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. In contrast to the relatively high levels of participation observed, Members’ attendance was low throughout the Session. An average of only 60 Members were present at the beginning of each sitting, and 71 at the adjournment of each sitting.

The Prime Minister attended all but one sitting, being present for a total of 762 minutes, or only 23% of the total session time. The Leader of the Opposition was absent during six sittings, being present for 905 minutes or 27% of the total session time. The Deputy Speaker chaired the proceedings for 88% of the session time, while the remaining 12% of session time was presided over Members of the Panel of Chairpersons. The Speaker, on the other hand, was absent during the entire session. The MMAP’s Parliamentary Leader did not attend the any of the sittings. The Parliamentary Leader of the PPPS attended 18 sittings, or nearly all of the session’s sittings; the Parliamentary Leader of the NPP attended 13 sittings, the PML’s five sittings, and the MQM’s four sittings. The Parliamentary Leaders of the ANP and PMLF attended only three sittings each.

The House witnessed eight walkouts by various political parties during the session. The Parliamentary Party of the PMLN walked out of the House on three occasions to protest against the Government’s non-responsiveness on drone attacks, the political alliance between the PPPP and PML, and the Abbottabad incident. ANP Members boycotted the 13th sitting, to protest against excessive electricity load shedding in KP. A minority Member of the PML staged a token walkout, protesting on the behalf of the Christian community for not being given a holiday on Good Friday and Easter. On two separate occurrences, two Independent Members protested against the Government’s lack of attention towards the closure of Parachanar Road, and drone attacks.

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