ISLAMABAD, November 25, 2009: Around 41 percent members participated in the Seventeenth Session of the National Assembly held between November 2 and 16, 2009, says FAFEN Parliament Performance Update-VII (detailed Update attached).
This Update is based on direct observation of the Seventeenth Session of the National Assembly. FAFEN has been producing session-wise reports of the National Assembly since December 2008 as part of its Parliament Watch Project in an effort to collect and publish information about the job performance of parliamentarians as well as parliamentary parties by observing and documenting their actions in the legislatures. FAFEN intends to foster informed engagement between constituents and elected representatives in Pakistan by providing objective and statistically-sound information on parliamentary processes and decisions.
FAFEN’s trained observers attend sittings of parliament to directly observe parliamentary proceedings and collect information on all major types of parliamentary business via standardized observation checklists. However, FAFEN has yet to get institutional recognition by the National Assembly Secretariat for observing the assembly proceedings and has to rely on ad hoc measures.
Some of the key findings in FAFEN’s Parliament Performance Update-VII include.
- FAFEN observers were not provided with official accreditation by the National Assembly Secretariat, despite previous formal requests.
- Orders of the Day were consistently available to legislators and others.
- Information about the parliamentary calendar, draft legislation under consideration, Members’ attendance and the establishment of a quorum, and other important matters was partially or entirely unavailable to FAFEN observers and the public.
- 44 documents were provided to the house in response to questions by different Ministry’s representatives
- The 11 daily sittings of the Seventeenth Session of the National Assembly included a total of 31 hours and 9 minutes of parliamentary business.
- Each sitting started an average of 42 minutes late.
- The average length of a sitting was 2 hours and 39 minutes. The shortest sitting lasted for 2 hours and 1 minute.
- The Speaker of the House was not present during 1 out of the 11 sittings.
- 53 Members appealed for leave to be absent from parliamentary sittings.
- Many Members who were technically “present” for sittings actually left the House Chamber to conduct other business.
- More then one-third of MNAs (139 Members out of a total of 340) took part in parliamentary discussions.
Representation and Responsiveness
- 14 out of 22 Calling Attention Notices on the Orders of the Day were discussed, the largest number was (2) put forward to various Ministries.
- A total of 16 PPPP Members, 14 PML-N Members, 7 PML Members and 2 Independent Members put forward CANs.
- There was Ministerial absence in 2 out of the 11 sittings during the question hour.
- 474 questions were put forward during Question Hour, which was held on 9 of 11 sittings during the session.
- 185 starred questions were put forward along with 289 un-starred questions.
- 273 questions of 474 (58%) were put forward by female parliamentarians, who represent only 22% of the total number of MNAs.
- PML-N and PPPP Members put forward 324 and 115 questions, respectively.
- More than half of questions from both PML-N and PPPP were put forward by female Members.
- The largest number of questions (64) was for the Ministry of Water and Power and, The Cabinet Secretariat responded completely to 46 questions (99%) and left 1 unanswered.
- The Ministry of Interior received 40 questions, of which 26 were answered completely (65%) and 13 were unanswered.
- 20 bills were listed on the Orders of the Day for consideration by the House. Nine of these bills were rejected. 1 bill was passed. All the remaining introduced bills were referred to Standing Committees.
- Two Private Member Bills were introduced by 4 female and 3 male MNAs.
- 3 PML-N and 4 PML representatives moved Private Member Bills. There were multiple movers of the 2 Private Bills.
- Fourteen resolutions were on the agenda of the Seventeenth Session, but only one was taken up by the House.
Order & Institutionalization
- 57% of items on the Orders of the Day (more then half of the business agenda of the House) were not addressed during the session.
- 128 Points of Order were raised. However, none of them required Speaker’s Ruling, indicating their inappropriateness vis-à-vis procedural definition.
- Members of PPPP, PML-N, and PML raised 50, 29, and 26 Points of Order, respectively.
- In the Seventeenth Session there were none Adjournment Motions.
- There were four instances of in-House protests and boycotts.
- One Question of Privilege was raised, by PMLN, PPPP and MMAP Members.
- There were 8 instances where different political parties discussed Matters of Public Importance, only at one was listed on the Orders of the Day
FAFEN’s key recommendations after observing the Seventeenth session of the National Assembly are as follows:
- National and Provincial Assembly sittings should be open to citizen observers who apply for accreditation through a standardized process. FAFEN takes this opportunity to reiterate its request for permanent accreditation to observe all Assemblies’ proceedings.
- The Assemblies should consider keeping a public record of parliamentary business similar to that presented in this FAFEN report so that constituents can be informed over time about the job performance of their elected representatives.
- Complete information (and relevant documents) about all Assemblies’ business should be available to all Members, especially regarding the progress of legislation, Calling Attention Notices (CANs), and other key policy decision-making processes. Such information should also be available to the public on the Assemblies’ websites and/or at the Assemblies’ Secretariats.
- Transcripts of all substantive discussion in the Assemblies on policy matters – especially debate on legislation – should be available on the Assemblies’ websites immediately after it takes place.
- Assembly Secretariats should keep records of the actual time spent by Members in the Assembly chambers and especially whether there is a Quorum. This information should be publicly available.
- No vote should be allowed by the Assemblies’ Speakers, especially on legislation, without a quorum.
- Efforts should be made to understand and address why approximately two-thirds of Members of the National Assembly did not participate actively in the Assembly’s Seventeenth Session and to track whether this problem continues in future sessions.
- All Ministers (or a designated representative of each Ministry and the Cabinet) must be required to be present during Question Hour at each relevant Assembly sitting. All questions must be responded to within a stipulated time frame. Transcripts of all questions, including the ones that the Assembly Secretariat finds inadmissible, and responses should be made available to Members and to the public and for the historical record.
- The Speaker and the Deputy Speaker should be responsible for ensuring that business planned in the ‘Orders of the Day’ is accomplished during each sitting or at least during a full session, particularly with regard to consideration of legislation, resolutions, and CANs. These policy matters are among the primary methods for elected legislators to represent constituents’ needs and concerns.
- Additional orientation and training for Assembly Members are needed regarding their fundamental responsibilities especially to their constituents as well as basic parliamentary procedures, particularly those that are commonly misused, such as Points of Order
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.
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