FAFEN Parliament Monitor Senate of Pakistan 123rd Session Report

The Senate passed ten bills and adopted nine resolutions during its 123rd session. The debates on existence of Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), Pakistan’s role in the 34-nation Saudi-led coalition, CPEC and the ban on Defence Minister to attend the proceeding of the Senate were other main highlights of this session.

The session comprising ten sittings, started on January 11, 2016 concluded on January 22, 2016. Half of the sittings started on their scheduled time while remaining were a few minutes behind the schedule.  There were 18 senators (17% of the total membership) present at the start and 26 (25%) at the time of adjournment on average during each sitting while the average maximum attendance was 67 (66%) members. Two Senators -Dr. Muhammad Farogh Naseem and Sirdar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa – remained completely absent from the session.

The Prime Minister did not attend any of the sittings. The  Rule 61 (2A) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate requires the Prime Minister to attend the Prime Minister’s Zero Hour (last hour of sitting) at least once a week when the House is in session.  The Chairman Senate attended nine sittings and presided over the proceeding for 77% of the session’s time. The Deputy Chairman attended seven sittings and chaired 6% of the proceedings, while 11% of the time was presided over
by the Panel of Presiding Officers and 6% time was consumed in breaks.  The Leader of the House and the Leader of Opposition attended eight sittings and seven sitting respectively.

The House passed two government bills including the Foreigners (Amendment) Bill, 2015 and the National Database and Registration Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2015.  Eight private bills were also passed by the House which were originated in the Committee of Whole and moved jointly by Leader of the House, Leader of the Opposition and parliamentary leaders of all political

The eight private bills which the Senate passed for speedy justice are the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Bill, 2016; the Law Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill, 2016.

One private bill – the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2015 (Omission of Article 182) – and a government bill  – the Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (Amendment) Bill, 2016 – were introduced in the House. Both bills were referred to relevant committees for further deliberations. A private bill – the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2015 – appearing on the agenda during 6th sitting was not taken up due to later arrival of the member in the House. Another private bill – the Registration of Hajj and Umrah Operators Bill, 2016 – was rejected by the House after being opposed by the government as the Minister for Religious Affairs told that government is working on an identical bill having similar objective.

The House took up a motion under Rule 172A and gave nod to convert the House into a committee in order to consider need for revival of student unions in the educational institutions in the country particularly in colleges and universities. The House passed a motion under Rule 157 (2) to discuss the Annual Reports of the CII for the years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12, laid on the Table of the House on 6th May, 2015. The House adopted amendments in rules 173 (sub-rule 1), 257 (insertion of new sub-rule after sub-rule 2), 184 and 198 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012.

The House debated five out of nine motions under Rule 218 which dealt with revival of student unions in the educational institutions, current position of balance of trade, establishment of new public hospitals in Islamabad, performance of private Hajj operators and failure of PHA Foundation in completing Officers’ Housing Scheme at Islamabad. On the other hand, three motions wee deferred which were regarding revised Telecom Policy, 2015, privatization of a number of public institutions / organizations without a
fresh approval of CCI and separation of powers among state institutions. A motion about affairs of cooperative housing societies in Islamabad was referred to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice to report back within one month.

The House adopted nine resolutions to establish new residential sectors in Islamabad; explore new markets for Pakistani goods; ban VIP protocol; improve performance of PARC; grant an additional amount of Rs. 2 billion to NACTA; depute female staff to treat women at Government hospitals in Islamabad; explore new reserves of oil and gas and paying tribute to late poet Ahmed Faraz.

Two resolutions about implementing the 18th Amendment in letter and spirit and control the indecent and vulgar material on electronic, print media and on web were carried forward on the request of mover. A resolution to defreeze allowances of the Federal Government employees since July 1, 2015 was dropped due to absence of mover.

In addition, nine reports by various Senate Standing Committees and papers about quarterly report of SBP were also presented during the session. Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources for presentation was granted extension for presentation of its two reports.

All Opposition parties led by MQM staged token walkout for two minutes against hike in electricity tariff in Karachi. A PkMAP lawmaker also staged token walkout for two minutes for not being allowed to raise his reservations on a question during question hour.

Three privilege motions were referred to the relevant committee. The first motion was of MQM lawmaker against raid on religious seminary in Karachi, second was submitted by PPPP lawmaker against the Chief Secretary Balochistan, Secretary Planning and Development and other officials for not attending meeting of sub-committee of Senate Standing Committee on CPEC issue while last one submitted by PML-N female lawmaker was against DS Railways Quetta The Chair did not admit a privilege motion moved by PPPP lawmaker against Minister for Interior.

During 9th sitting, Senate Chairman also restrained Federal Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif from attending session of the House for obstructing its business in violation of a chain of rulings given by him.  During this particular sitting, the House had to discuss statement of Khawaja Asif regarding the visit of the Chief of Army Staff to Afghanistan but his absence noticed by the Chair resulted in refraining him to attend the remaining session.

Six Adjournment Motions (AMs) appeared on the agenda during the session of which the House debated three AMs. These AMs were about tension created between Iran and Saudi Arabia, speech of US President Barack Obama predicting instability in Pakistan and western route of CPEC.

The House took up all 13 CANs. Three CANs were related to CADD; two CANs each were related to Ministries of Commerce; Water and Power and one each to Ministries of National Food Security and Research; Petroleum and Natural Resources; Interior and Narcotics Control and Aviation Division.

The House also took up 129 out of 145 (89%) starred questions on floor of the house, while the Senators raised another 166 supplementary questions.  The lawmakers raised 144 points of public importance that consumed 329 minutes of the session. Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs gave an in-camera briefing to the Senate for three hours and 20 minutes about policy of Pakistan on ongoing recent Saudi-Iran tension.

The House passed a motion to present the draft Rules of the Senate Committee on Ethics and draft Code of Conduct for Members of the Senate as prepared by the Special Committee on Ethics. Twenty-two lawmakers and Chairman Senate spoke on it for 121 minutes.

The Chair gave four rulings on the issues of revival of students’ union, statement of US President about Pakistan, non-provision of sufficient funds to Frontier Constabulary and absence of Minister for Defence from the House.

FAFEN observes senators’ participation against three categories; members who only submit agenda on the Orders of the Day, those who only debate it and members who both submit agenda and take part in the on-floor discussion. The representatives of almost all parties in Senate participated in the proceeding of the House as 80 (79%) members of the current membership of 104- participated in the session. Twenty-four lawmakers were such who did not participate in either way.

Senators generally participated in proportion to their party strengths in the House. More members of PML-N (21 of 26) participated in the session followed PPPP (19 of 27), MQM (7 of 8), PTI (6 of 7), Independents (5 of 10), JUI-F (5 0f 5), ANP (4 of 6), PML ( 3 of 4), PkMAP ( 3 of 3), NP  (3 of 3) and  BNP-A ( 1 of 2) . The sole lawmakers of JI, BNP-M and PML-F also participated in the session.
Relative to their respective strength in the House, female Senators were more active as compared to their male colleagues. Eighty-four percent (16 of 19) female Senators and 75 per cent (64 of 85) male Senators participated in the session, contributing more to the debates as well as submitting agenda items.

Equal representation is awarded to each province in the Upper House and there are currently 23 Senator each (including one non-Muslim) from Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa whereas eight Senators are from FATA and four from ICT. Nineteen lawmakers each of Punjab and Sindh Assemblies participated in the session followed by 18 lawmakers of KP Assembly and 16 of Balochistan Assembly. All four lawmakers of ICT and four out of eight Senators from FATA participated in the session.  Two out of four minority members also participated in the House proceeding – one by submitting agenda and other by taking part in debate.

To download the session report, click here for English version – click here for Urdu version