76% of agenda items remained unaddressed

ISLAMABAD, May 7, 2012: The National Assembly’s first session of the fifth parliamentary year from April 25 to May 4 witnessed a chaotic start, leaving 76% of the Agenda items unaddressed, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) preliminary report on Monday.  

The main opposition party PMLN staged protests and boycotts throughout the seven sittings demanding the Prime Minister’s resignation over his conviction by the Supreme Court in the contempt case.

However, amid the PMLN protests, the House passed a government Bill to set up a nine-Member National Commission for Human Rights. The Bill has already been passed by Senate. 

The House also adopted two treasury-backed Resolutions, creating a new province in Punjab and posing confidence in the Prime Minister.    

The first Resolution called upon the Punjab Assembly to “present a Bill…to amend the Constitution in accordance with Article 239(4) of the Constitution for passage which would have the effect of altering the limits of province of the Punjab, thereby creating Province of Janoobi Punjab.” While the other reposed confidence in the Prime Minister as the “constitutionally and democratically elected Prime Minister and unanimously elected Chief Executive of this country.”

The 41st session lasted 10 hours, on average each sitting meeting for an hour and 16 minutes. The trend of starting the sitting late continued as each started with an average delay of 58 minutes.

The House left 76% of the agenda items unaddressed that appeared on the Orders of the Day, primarily due to protests and boycotts, which consumed 47% of the total session time (286 minutes).

Twenty-eight Points of Order were raised, mostly about the Supreme Court’s verdict and Bhoja Air Crash, consumed 36% of the total session time – 215 of 600 minutes. Like previous sessions, the agenda for Private Members’ Day was ambitious, making it difficult for the House to complete it in a single sitting.

The opposition benches mostly raised issues about the performance of the federal government, and demanding the Prime Minister to resign after the verdict by the apex court, while the treasury took the floor mostly to respond to the 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.  

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.

Unlike previous sessions where the Prime Minister ensured his presence in the House, he attended only two sittings for 10% (63 minutes) of the seven sittings.

The Leader of the Opposition was present during four sittings for 40% (240 minutes) of the session time.

The Speaker chaired the proceedings for 59% of the session time and the remaining time was presided over the Deputy Speaker.

The parliamentary leaders of ANP, PMLF and MMAP did not attend the entire session, while the leaders of NPP attended six sittings, PPPS four, PML and MQM three each and BNPA leader attended two sittings.

The session witnessed better attendance as on average 111 Members were present at the beginning and 141 at the end of each sitting. 

During the session, 24 out of 118 Starred questions (requiring oral replies) appearing on the Agenda were taken up by the House. On average three questions were asked per sitting. Additionally, a total of 36 Supplementary questions were raised.

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