Law and order debate lasts just 91 minutes

ISLAMABAD, May 9, 2012: Low attendance of Members, late starts, Points of Order interrupting regular proceedings and a brief discussion on law and order marked the Sindh Assembly’s 35th session as it adopted a Resolution backing the Prime Minister as democratically elected chief executive, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) preliminary report on Wednesday.

The session lasted 23 hours and 10 minutes for nine sittings from April 23 to May 8, on average meeting two hours and 34 minutes per sitting. Each sitting started with an average delay of 102 minutes

The House discussed the law and order for an hour and 31 minutes, six percent of the total session time.  Speaking for two hours in the last sitting, the Chief Minister presented a four-year performance report of the government, terming the law and order satisfactory in the province.    

The Members’ seriousness in discharging their representative and legislative duties can be judged from their attendance. Since the Sindh Assembly Secretariat does not make the attendance record public, FAFEN conducts a headcount 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, and the Chief Minister. Currently the Sindh Assembly is without the Leader of the Opposition.  

On average, only 29 Members were present at the outset and 57 at the end of each sitting.

The Chief Minister attended two sittings for 22% (222minutes) of the session time. The Speaker chaired the proceedings for 77% of the session time; the Deputy Speaker 13%; and the remaining 10% of time was presided over by Members of Panel of Chairpersons. The Parliamentary Leader MQM attended nine sittings, PPPP, ANP and PML (F-B) five each, PMLF three, and NPP and PML leaders attended one sitting each.  There are no notified opposition benches in the Sindh Assembly.

Although the Quorum was visibly lacking at various stages of the session, it was not pointed out by any of the legislators.

The Assembly adopted six Resolutions, including the one which reposed confidence in “Prime Minister as constitutionally and democratically elected Prime Minister and unanimously elected Chief Executive of this country and reaffirmed belief in constitutional procedure for his disqualification from holding the office and that any other procedure adopted will be considered as unconstitutional.”

The House also adopted a Resolution on the Bhoja Air plane crash (20th April, 2012), which resulted in tragic loss of 127 lives. It demanded that the events leading to the tragedy be brought to light without delay and recommended to the Sindh government to approach the federal government for immediate measures regarding compensation to the victims’ families.

Additionally, two treasury-backed bills – the Sindh Teachers Education Development Authority Bill 2012 and the Colonization of Government Lands (Sindh Amendment) Bill 2011 – were passed. The sole Private Members’ Bill appearing on the Agenda – the Protection of Religious Minorities’ Properties Bill 2012 – was introduced and sent to the respective Standing Committee.

Most of the Agenda for the Private Members’ Days was left unaddressed as it was ambitiously set to complete in a single sitting.

Members raised 82 Points of Order which consumed almost one-fourth of the session time – 212 of 923 minutes. None of the Points of Order attracted the Chair’s formal ruling. Without the Chair’s formal ruling, these Points of Order do not lead to any output.  

Forty-four out of 47 Starred questions (requiring oral replies) appearing on the Agenda were taken up by the House. On average five questions were asked per sitting. Additionally, a total of 155 Supplementary questions were raised.

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.