- Assembly focuses on local government, right to information and self-accountability
- Enhances lawmakers’ perks in violation of ruling party manifesto
- FAFEN recommends referring all bills to relevant standing committees for review
- Unprecedented gap between sittings of a session observed
ISLAMABAD, February 26, 2017: The incumbent Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) passed 129 pieces of legislation from May 29, 2013 to February 6, 2017- averaging almost three bills per month. The legislation was warranted by requirements of compliance with the 18th Constitutional Amendment, party manifesto of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the executive needs of the province. Thematically, the Assembly legislated on institutional development or reforms in various sectors, regularization of contractual employees, governance, security, environment, transparency and accountability.
Out of 121 government sponsored bills, five were to legislate on subjects devolved under 18th amendment, 42 pertained to the executive needs of the province and 41 were visible attempts to introduce reforms as per party manifesto commitments. Remaining legislations are cross cutting i.e. they pertain to either all three or at least two categories of legislation. As many as six bills can be categorized as violation of party manifesto commitments of limiting elected representatives’ perks and abolition of all discretionary funds.
KP Assembly not only legislated on effective devolution to third tier of governance (KPLGA, 2013) and forging transparency in public institutions (KPRTIA, 2013) but also came with a unique piece of legislation on time-bound public service delivery. Local government system introduced through KPLGA is considered to be far ahead of legislations made in other provinces. KP also seized the initiative of introducing a progressive RTI law that was followed by Punjab with equally good legislation. The Assembly also legislated on independent Ehtesab Commission. All four laws are consistent with PTI manifesto. However, no legislation could be initiated on several manifesto promises, including but not limited to civil service reforms, uniform education system, elimination of discriminatory laws against women, legal protections for disabled, land reforms and criminal justice reforms.
Through other legislations, KP Assembly covered the themes like institutional development and reforms (33), local government and good governance (17), accountability and transparency (12), security (8) and others (59).
PTI along with its coalition partners enjoys a comfortable majority support in KP Assembly making it easy for passing any legislation. However, the rules of procedure and conduct of business as well as best parliamentary practices require conformity with certain norms aimed at ensuring democratic and consultative spirit in lawmaking. These norms include careful review of draft legislations by committees, solicitation of inputs by stakeholders and mandatory readings and discussions on various aspects of the legislations. Another norm that is followed in Pakistan’s context is an informal consensus outside Assembly among and between political parties on important legislations.
Despite the impressive number and progressive nature of bills, KP Assembly did not follow the norms in passage of almost all legislations. Only two in every 20 bills introduced were referred to committees for detailed review, findings and soliciting feedback from stakeholders and remaining all were passed without any committee reviews. KP Assembly is the only legislature in Pakistan that does not require mandatory scrutiny of legislations by committee. Effective committee system is crucial to maximize the ownership of legislations.
Despite skipping the committee system, KP assembly did not show a marked improvement in efficiency. On an average, every bill that was passed took 48 days to be passed. Theme-wise, every bill on benefits to elected representatives took on average 14 days for passage and it was lowest average time for passage of a bill under any theme. In an ascending order of average time taken for passage, the legislation on lawmakers salaries was followed by bills on human rights and social welfare that took 19 days, economy (22 days), health (28 days), environment (35 days), institutional development and reforms (36 days), jobs and employment regulation (37 days), local government and good governance (59 days), education (80 days), accountability and transparency (131 days) and security (293 days).
Type-wise, out of 129 bills, 121 bills were introduced by the government and the remaining eight were sponsored by Private Members. Majority of legislations in any legislature is introduced by the government. This is quite natural but Private Members bill is a powerful legislative tool through which individual members effectively influence the legislative subjects. Any Private Member on any subject is bound to be considered, legally speaking, when government wants to legislate on the subject. Members, in their private capacity submit bills and in many cases, Private Members bills are passed. There are many precedents from Pakistani legislatures in near past when Assemblies either passed Private Members bills or those were adopted as government bills. In case of KP Assembly, the number of Private Members bills introduced (13) remained low mainly because the House did not observe the Private Member days in full. Still the passage of eight Private Members bills by the Assembly is indicative of Assembly’s seriousness to consider private legislation. Interestingly, Private Members bill took relatively less time for passage (44 days) if compared with government legislations. As many as 69 bills passed by the Assembly were introduced as fresh pieces of legislation while remaining 60 were amendments to existing legislation.
FAFEN recommends referring all bills to relevant standing committees for recommendations and strict implementation of rules regarding Private Members’ Day.
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