94% legislators stay away from debate on PCNS

Legislators take part in debate; Senators show more interest than MNAs

ISLAMABAD, April 13: The joint session of the parliament from March 20-April 12 saw only one-fourth of the session time being spent on debating the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) formed to review relations with the United States and general foreign policy.

Ninety-four percent of the parliamentarians stayed away from the crucial debate with only 28 (6%) out of 445 legislators in the National Assembly and Senate debating the PCNS report for 338 minutes. This constituted 25% of the total session time of 22 hours and 22 minutes.

Only 4% of the MNAs in the House of 341 and only 13% of Senators in the House of 104 spoke on the ties with the US.

The PCNS was constituted in the wake of a NATO attack on Salala check post that killed 24 Pakistan troops in November last year.

Spread over nine sittings, the longest joint session in Pakistan’s parliamentary history unanimously approved new recommendations on relations with the US and general foreign policy.  However, the debate showed the parliamentarians were reluctant to share their thoughts on re-setting ties, which included issues of opening land supply lines for NATO troops in Afghanistan and the drone strikes inside Pakistan.

With only one-fourth of the session time being consumed for actually discussing the PCNS report, the rest of the time was taken up to discuss target killings in Karachi and Balochistan, sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan, increase in prices of petroleum products and power outages and a string of other issues.

The PCNS report was completely ignored in three sittings. In the eighth sitting it was discussed for only 15 minutes by a PPPP legislator. 

Though the opposition parties – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl ur Rehman (JUIF) rejected the first draft of PCNS recommendations, their legislators were conspicuous by their absence during the debate.  Three PMLN Senators and two MNAs took part in the debate. The party has 104 legislators in the two Houses of the parliament.

One parliamentarian each from Awami National Party (ANP), JUIF, Mutthida Majlis-e-Amal Party (MMAP) and Pakistan Muslim League Functional (PMLF) took part in the debate. Similarly, 32 Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) legislators in the two Houses and 12 Independents in the Senate stayed away from the debate on the report. 

Though 11 legislators of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) shared their thoughts on the report, they only make up seven percent of the treasury benches in the parliament. Out of 55 Pakistan Muslim League (PML) legislators in the parliament, only three took part in the debate.

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.