Budget Session 41% MNAs Spoke on Budgetary Proposals

  • Budget Passed after 34-hour Debate
  • 471 Cut Motions Introduced, All Rejected

ISLAMABAD, June 24, 2011As many as 41of the Members of the National Assembly (139 out of 341) actively took part in the discussions and on-floor debate on the Federal Budget for the fiscal year 2011-12 during the 31st Session of the National Assembly, held between June 3 and 23, 2011.

Many MNAs used the opportunity to speak on the budget to express their views on current political issues. The Finance Bill, 2011 was presented during the first sitting of the session, in which the Minister for Finance and Revenue addressed the House for 43 minutes amid strong protesting voices of opposition Members.

As many as 55% (50 out of 91) Members of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PMLN); 35% (45 out of 127) Members of ruling Pakistan People’s Party – Parliamentarians (PPPP); 22% (11 out of 51) Members of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML); 68% (17 out of 25) of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM); 31% (four out of 13) of the Awami National Party (ANP); 38% (three out of eight) of the Mutihida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan (MMAP) ; 20% (one out of five) of the Pakistan Muslim League – Functional (PMLF) actively took part in the debates on Budgetary proposals. The sole Member of the Pakistan People’s Party – Sherpao (PPPS), along with seven Independent Members also marked their participation by expressing their views on the budgetary proposals.

Opposition Members introduced 471 “cut motions” aiming to decrease 60 of the government’s 137 proposed budgetary allocations, or “demands for grants”. None of these cut motions was successful. Last year, a total of 660 “cut motions” were raised against various budgetary proposals by the opposition, but none were taken up by the House.

The debate on the budget took more than 34 hours of the 31st Session. Forty-five Members of the PPPP took almost 11 hours and 53 minutes to express their views and identify various issues. The 50 PMLN Members took 11 and a half hours, while the 11 PML Members took a little over two and a half hours addressing the National Assembly. Over four and a half hours were taken by the 17 MQM Members, 35 minutes by the four ANP Members, and 82 minutes of the total 2,059 minutes by the three Members of the MMAP. One Member of the PMLF took 18 minutes, while the parliamentary leader of the PPPS spoke on the budget proposals for 52 minutes. The seven independent Members took a total of 52 minutes to express their views on the proposals.

More than one-fourth (26%) of the parliamentarians who took part in debate and discussion about the budget proposals were women, although women constitute less than one-fourth (23%) of National Assembly strength. About 74% of the parliamentarians involved in the budget debate were male, who represent approximately 77% of the total MNAs.

There were a total of 36 female parliamentarians, or 47% of all female MNAs who actively took part in the general discussions and debates on the budget. By contrast, 103 of 264 male MNAs (39%) took part in these discussions. Fifteen out of the 45 PPPP Members (33%) who spoke on the budget were female; similarly, 13 out the total 50 PMLN Members (26%) were female Members. Three out of 11 active PML Members (27%) were females, four out of 17 MQM Members (24%) were females, and one out of four ANP Member (25%) was female. There was no female participation from the PMLF, MMAP and Independents.

The business of the Parliament also can only be meaningful “with the active and responsible participation of its Members.” Indicators of effective participation include, for example, attendance and active involvement of parliamentary leadership and other Members in parliamentary discussion and activities. The absence of parliamentary leaders from the National Assembly during the budget session was particularly noticeable. The Leader of the Opposition was only present during three sittings of the budget session, while the Parliamentary Leader of PML attended less than half of the session sittings (7 sittings, or 39%). The MQM Parliamentary Leader was present during less than one-third of the session sittings (5 sittings, or 31%), the Parliamentary Leaders of the MMAP, PMLF and BNPA attended three sittings each, while the ANP Parliamentary Leader attended only one sitting. The Parliamentary Head of the PPPS attended 16 sittings, and the NPP leader attended 10 sittings of the budget session.

The attendance of Members remained low during the entire budget session. Since the National Assembly Secretariat does not make attendance records of its Members public, FAFEN conducts a head-count 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 Leader of the Opposition. During the session, on an average 60 Members were present at the start of each sitting and 56 at the end. A total of 212 Members (62% of total NA Strength) were present during the 16th sitting when the Finance Bill, 2011 was passed. The entire process of the passage of the bill took 165 minutes.

The National Assembly met for 75 Hours and 45 Minutes during 17 sittings of 31st session. Each sitting lasted an average of four hours and 12 minutes, with an average 58 minute delay in starting

The lack of Quorum was called only once (in the last sitting) during the entire session by a male parliamentarian of the PMLN. It was called right after a female Member of the PPPP coined a Resolution regarding maintaining decorum in the House and paying women parliamentarians respect.

The Prime Minister maintained his attendance tradition by attending 17 sittings for 895 minutes or 20% of the total session time. The Speaker chaired the proceedings for 1,991 minutes during the session, while the Deputy Speaker presided over the session for 978 minutes. The remaining 1,534 minutes were chaired by Members of the Panel of Chairpersons.

During the course of the session, the House took up 21 Calling Attention Notices (CANs). These were raised by 37 male and 22 female Members: 19 CANs were jointly sponsored by male and female Members, while the remaining three were put forth by groups of male Members.

The House witnessed a total of seven protests during the course of this budget session. Members of the PMLN expressed their reservations regarding the budgetary proposals by chanting slogans during the first sitting. During the 4th sitting, Members of the ANP staged a walkout against the treatment of their workers. At another instance, Members of the PMLN accused the government of deliberately delaying the flight of their political leader. Members of the PMLN, PML, PPPS and Independents staged a token walkout against the extra judicial killings of a young man in Karachi, the Abbottabad incident and drone attacks. MQM Members during the 7th sitting staged a walkout against June, 13th killings in Karachi.  A PPPP Member from Balochistan during the 6th sitting declared the boycott of the budget session if his demands on Balochistan issues are not met. During the last sitting of the session, four Minority Members expressed their concerns by sitting in front of the Speaker’s dice protesting against the devolution of the Ministry for Minorities Affairs.

FAFEN’s Parliament Watch Project (PWP) is designed to measure the performance of the legislature and of elected representatives in the National Assembly through a comprehensive direct observation methodology in order to foster more informed dialogue between citizens and their elected representatives. FAFEN’s standardized checklists for monitoring parliamentary functions are based on the Parliament’s Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business, and include details related to parliamentary transparency, participation, representation and responsiveness, output, order and institutionalization.

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 42 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.