92nd Session of Senate: 60% of Agenda Left Unaddressed

ISLAMABAD, April 19, 2013:  The 92nd session of Senate was marked by low interest of Senators, persistent lack of quorum and points of order interrupting regular proceedings as the upper house left 60% of the agenda unaddressed, says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its preliminary report on Friday.

This was the first session after the completion of the five years of the coalition government. In the backdrop of the controversy over scrutiny of candidates contesting the general elections, the first sitting witnessed the introduction of the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2013, which seeks changes in the clauses of the article 63 [disqualification on the grounds of defection].  The bill was taken up and sent to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice.

The four sittings from April 15-19 lasted eight hours and 41 minutes with each on average meeting for two hours and 10 minutes. Each sitting started with an average delay of 46 minutes.

Only 10 out of 25 agenda items appearing on the Orders of the Day during the session were addressed. The House did not take up Pakistan Pharmacy Council Bill 2013 along with six resolutions, four motions under rule 218 and 62 starred questions (requiring oral replies).

Members took the opportunity to raise points of order about law and order in the country, power outages and other issues. Almost half of the session time was consumed by 40 points of order. None of them attracted the Chair’s formal ruling.  Unless the Chair gives a formal ruling on a point of order it does not lead to any assembly output.

An adjournment motion about power outages was debated in the third and fourth sitting. The House did not debate the motion under rule 218 about the law and order in the country.

The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution demanding to try former President General (R) Pervez Musharraf under article 6 of the constitution for derailing democracy and abrogating the constitution.  The resolution also demanded that all photographs, posters and banners of the former president be removed from all government buildings with immediate effect.

Since the Senate Secretariat does not make the attendance record public, FAFEN conducts a headcount of legislators at the beginning and end of each sitting and documents the actual time spent on the floor of the house by the Chairman, Deputy Chairman, Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition

On average 27 Senators attended each of the four sittings, while only eight were present at the beginning and 13 at the end of each sitting.  However, lack of quorum was not pointed out at any point during the proceedings.

The Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition attended the entire session. However, they said they were no longer the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition after the caretaker government is in place. The entire session was chaired by the Chairman, while the Deputy Chairman attended one sitting.

The parliamentary leaders of PML, PMLF and BNPA did not attend the entire session while the ANP leader attended all four sittings, MQM three, JUIF two and NP leader was present during one sitting.

Out of 66 starred questions on the agenda, four were taken up. Senators asked 10 supplementary questions.

About FAFEN: FAFEN, a coalition of 42 civil society organizations, started the direct observation of the National Assembly proceedings in 2008, using a methodology based the rules of the parliamentary business. The direct observation was extended to the proceedings of Senate and the provincial assemblies in 2011.