Attendance of lawmakers, average sitting time declined as compared to three previous years

  • PML-N Government Presents Fourth Budget for First Time
  • 48% Members Take Part in Budget Discussion
  • 14 Lawmakers Remain Absent throughout the Session
  • Lack of Quorum disrupts proceedings of the House on eight occasions

The National Assembly passed the Federal Budget for the Financial Year 2016-17 during 33rd session. The PML-N, for the first time during its three terms in government, presented the fourth budget. The previous two governments of the ruling party were ended before the completion of three years.

Over the past four years, certain changes have been observed during the proceedings of the budget sessions. The average sitting time and the attendance have seen a continuous decline in these years. On average, every sitting of the budget session continued for six hours 32 minutes during first year, five hours 58 minutes during second year, five hours 14 minutes during third year and four hours and 43 minutes during this year. Similarly, the average attendance of lawmakers during budget sessions has seen declining trend from 245 members per sitting during first year to 226 members per sitting this year. While, the quorum issue also registered a surge this year. From zero instances of quorum identification during first year and one such instance during each of second and third year to 13 instances this year shows sudden increase in pointation of quorum. The attendance of the Finance Minister and the Leader of the Opposition has also scaled down to some extent. Moreover, the number of Cut Motions, which is a sign of active opposition scrutinizing the budget, has been observed fluctuating. The lawmakers submitted 770 Cut Motions during first budget, 978 in second budget, 1515 in third budget and 1287 during fourth budget.

The Federal Budget 2016-17 was presented before the Lower House of Parliament during its second sitting on June 3, 2016. After a two-day gap following budget speech, the House began discussion on the budget which continued for 11 sittings and concluded by the Finance Minister on June 17. The House took three more days to approve 147 Demands for Grants and Appropriations for 2016-17. The Finance Bill, 2016 was finally passed on June 22, last sitting of the session followed by approval of 112 Supplementary Demands for Grants for 2015-16 the same day. The opposition lawmakers moved 1287 Cut Motions on various Demands; however, all were rejected by a majority vote.

Nearly 48% lawmakers took part in the budget discussion during 33rd session of the National Assembly. As many as 165 lawmakers, including 41 females representing 15 parliamentary parties, participated in the budget debate that continued for 56 hours. The male lawmakers consumed nearly 80% of this time (44 hours and 20 minutes) while 20% time (11 hours and 41 minutes) was given to the female members. The ruling party PML-N’s 70 lawmakers took the biggest chunk of this time (17 hours and 20 minutes) followed by PPPP (12 hours and 34 minutes), PTI (eight hours and 46 minutes) and MQM (six hours and one minute). Twenty-five lawmakers of PPPP, 27 of PTI and 13 of MQM took part in the discussions.

Of 56 hours of debate, 40 hours and 56 minutes were consumed in general discussion on the budget and recommendations made by the Senate while eight hours and 47 minutes were spent on discussing Cut Motions and two hours and 57 minutes on Charged Expenditure included in the Demands for Grants. The discussion on the Finance Bill also consumed three hours and 21 minutes.

Meanwhile, the budget process consumed 16 out of total 17 sittings held during 33rd session. The first sitting of the session, held on May 31, 2016, was set for taking up regular agenda but it did not transact any business and was instead spent to pay tribute to a deceased lawmaker Malik Iqbal Mehdi Khan and wishing good health to Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif who underwent cardiac surgery in London. It was also the shortest sitting of the session, meeting for only 49 minutes while the last two were longest sittings, each meeting for seven hours and 41 minutes.

The Prime Minister, due to his surgery, was not in the country and, therefore, did not attend the budget session. There were 13 other lawmakers who remained absent throughout the session including the PTI Chairman Imran Khan. The Leader of the Opposition attended 40% of the proceedings (32 hours and 16 minutes) during 11 sittings. The Speaker was present in 16 sittings and presided over 44% of the proceedings (35 hours and seven minutes) while the Deputy Speaker was present in 15 sittings and chaired 49% proceedings (39 hours and 23 minutes). On average, each sitting was attended by 226 lawmakers.

The House adopted three resolutions during the session, all brought as supplementary agenda. Two separate resolutions jointly moved by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle offered condolences on demise of heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali and condemned the recent incidents of honor killings. Another resolution was moved by the Law Minister seeking extension of the National Command Authority (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016 for a further period of 120 days. The Ordinance which would be expiring on July 11, 2016 was laid before the House on June 14 during 10th sitting of the session.

Besides the Finance Bill, 2016, the government also introduced three other bills during the session, including the Illegal Dispossession (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the Marine Insurance Bill, 2016 and the Pakistan National Accreditation Council Bill, 2016. Seven Private Members’ bills set for introduction during first sitting were not taken up. Two Calling Attention Notices and three Motions under Rule 259 appearing on the agenda of first sitting were also not taken up.

Apart from the Annual Budget 2016-17 and the Supplementary Budget 2015-16, the Finance Minister laid the Schedule of Authorized Expenditure 2016-17 and the Supplementary Schedule of Authorized Expenditure 2015-16. The report of the Standing Committee on Science & Technology on the Pakistan Engineering Council (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was also presented before the House.

Unlike the previous budget sessions, the quorum remained a hurdle this year for smooth running of the proceedings. The quorum was not pointed out during first budget session of the 14th National Assembly while during each of the second and third budget sessions, the proceedings were disrupted by lack of quorum only once. However, this year, the lawmakers pointed out the quorum 13 times during the entire session, of which it was found lacking on eight occasions. Except for once when a sitting was adjourned for the next day, the proceedings were suspended until the completion of quorum. A total of four hours and four minutes were eaten up by suspensions due to lack of quorum. Besides these, the prayer breaks also consumed an hour and 43 minutes of the session.

The fourth largest parliamentary party MQM boycotted the fifth sitting of the session to protest against the Rangers for laying siege to the residence of its leader Dr. Farooq Sattar in Karachi. Meanwhile, the entire opposition boycotted sixth sitting against the derogatory remarks of the Defence Minister against Dr. Sheerin Mazari of PTI. The MQM singly and the opposition jointly (except JI and QWP-S) staged token walkouts during 11th and 16th sittings against the arrest of party workers and the absence of Interior Minister from the House respectively.

The lawmakers spoke on 114 Points of Order during the session consuming three hours and six minutes. Though reserved for matters related to the Rules, the Points of Order were used to talk about a range of issues from Premier’s health to governance and development schemes.

To download the complete report, click here