76% of agenda items left unaddressed

  • Lower House consumes 52% time on Points of Order
  • Only 52% Members participate in the session

ISLAMABAD, January 10, 2012: Almost 54% of MNAs participated in the 37th Session of the Lower House that left 76% of the agenda items listed on the Orders of the Day unaddressed mainly due to excessive use of Points of Order which consumed a little more than half of the session time.

The House could only take up 24% of the agenda items listed on the Orders of the Day for the session that met on an average for two hours and 45 minutes during each of the 13 sittings, spread over 35 hours and 44 minutes. On average each sitting started 47 minutes late.

The Members raised a total of 250 Points of Order which consumed 52% of the total session time – 1,106 of 2,144 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 60 Points of Order were raised by the PMLN Members, MQM (23), ANP and PML (19 each) MMAP (4), PPPS (2) and 14 by Independent Members. The PPPP Members took the floor 109 times on Points of Order, mostly to respond to opposition’s criticism. None of the Points of Order attracted the Chair’s formal ruling. Unless the Chair gives a formal ruling on a Point of Order, speeches and rejoinders do not contribute to any assembly output and only provide media with news pegs.

Overall 54% of Members – 139 male and 44 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 constituted 53% of their total membership at 263 while female participation was 57% of their total membership at 77.

A party-wise analysis shows that 88% of MQM parliamentarians took part in the proceedings, followed by PMLN (50%), MMAP (48%), PPPP (46%), ANP (46%), PML (39%) and PMLF (20%).

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, 48 Members on an average were present at the beginning of each sitting and 62 at the end.

The Prime Minister attended 11 sittings for 16% (333 minutes) and the Leader of the Opposition was present during seven sittings for 21% (449 minutes) of the session time. The Speaker chaired the proceedings for 19% of the session time; the Deputy Speaker 52% while the remaining 29% of the time was presided over by Members of Panel of Chairpersons. The Parliamentary Leader of PMLF did not attend any sitting, while leaders of NPP attended 10, ANP eight, PPPS seven, BNPA and MQM three each, and MMAP and PML leaders two sittings each.

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

The National Assembly passed two Government Bills during the session. The House took up 14 Calling Attention Notices raised by 45 male and 24 female Members. Seven were sponsored by PMLN Members, four by PPPP Members, two by MQM Member and one was jointly tabled by MQM and MMAP Members.

A total of 81 out of 261 starred questions were taken up, at an average of 6.2 questions per sitting. The Members asked 143 supplementary questions.

The House debated the Adjournment Motion regarding load shedding of gas. Five PMLN Members spoke on the Motion for 42 minutes. The Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources summed up the debate.

The House witnessed three walkouts. The PMLN Members walked out of the House twice to protest shortage of gas. The MQM Members staged a walkout for not receiving a satisfactory response over a Calling Attention Notice on increase in CNG prices. On another occasion, a PPPP Member walked out in protest over not getting permission to speak on a Point of Order. The ANP Members boycotted the 12th sitting over the issue of new provinces.

The MQM submitted two resolutions in the Senate for making Hazara a separate province and making province/provinces out of south Punjab. When the MQM asked for a discussion on the two resolutions, its Members got embroiled in a row with the ANP Legislators. The PMLN Legislators were of the opinion that these Resolutions should first appear on the agenda, and then discussion should follow. This caused interruptions and the Chair had to suspend the proceedings on various occasions during the last three sittings.

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.