Less than half of the legislators in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly took part in the debate on budget for 51% of the session time. Seventy-one legislators-among them 55 men and 16 women-did not express their views at all. The session, that persistently witnessed low attendance, lasted 33 hours and 40 minutes and comprised 12 sittings.
The House took 10 sittings to pass the provincial budget. In the remaining two it gave the go-ahead to the supplementary budget. Each sitting lasted an average of two hours and 48 minutes and faced an average delay of 31 minutes. The debate on the budget spanned 17 hours and four minutes.
A total of 741 cut motions – a tool to express disapproval or dissatisfaction over the budgetary proposals – were moved by opposition benches during the session. However, none were debated or taken up by the House. The finance minister presented the budget during the first sitting in an hour and 45 minute speech.
Twenty-seven percent of the MPAs who took part in the budget debate were women who constitute less than 17% of the assembly’s strength. A party-wise analysis shows that 33% (16 out of 48) legislators of the ruling Awami National Party (ANP) spoke for 303 minutes while nine representing the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) did so for 124 minutes.
Seventy-eight percent (seven out of nine) Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PMLN) legislators took 100 minutes to express their views on the budget, followed by 71% (five out of seven) of Pakistan Muslim League (PML) members who spoke for 83 minutes; 67% (10 out of 15) of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Party (MMAP, 321 minutes), and 50% (three out of six) belonging to Pakistan People’s Party–Sherpao (PPPS, 62 minutes). The two independents, who are part of the coalition government, took part in the debate for 22 minutes while only one of seven independents on opposition benches spoke for nine minutes.
Only active participation and attendance of members can make the business of the House meaningful. Since the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Secretariat does not make members’ attendance records 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 Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition.
The Chief Minister attended only three sittings for 430 minutes while the Leader of the Opposition was present in five sittings for 919 minutes. The PML parliamentary leader attended the entire session, followed by leaders of PPPS (10 sittings), PPPP (six) and PMLN (two).
On average, 39 MPAs were present at the start and 50 at the end of each sitting. A total of 65 members (52% of the total membership) were present during the 10th sitting when the Finance Bill 2012-13 was passed.
The Speaker chaired the proceedings for 86% of the session time while the remaining time was chaired by members of panel of chairpersons. The lack of quorum remained an issue during the entire session.
According to FAFEN observation, it was only pointed out once by a PMLN member and the chair ordered the bells to be rung for five minutes. The session witnessed five protests. A heated argument between a female PML member and PMLN legislators disrupted the proceedings during the third sitting. The fourth sitting saw a PPPP Member staging a walkout for not being given the floor to speak.
Similarly, in the fifth sitting the PMLN and PML legislators exchanged harsh words that interrupted regular agenda. All MPAs, except the opposition benches, staged a walkout during the eighth sitting over the disqualification of the Prime Minister, while the opposition staged a walkout in the ninth sitting over the Speaker’s decision to suspend all cut motions to wrap up the budget debate.
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