ISLAMABAD, November 23, 2012: Protests and walkouts by the coalition partners and opposition parties over law and order along with low attendance of Senators marked the Senate’s 87th session, which left 73% of the agenda items unaddressed, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) preliminary report on Friday.
The session lasted 20 hours and 49 minutes for ten sittings from 6-22 November, on average meeting two hours and five minutes per sitting. Each sitting started with an average delay of 45 minutes. A total of 255 minutes (20%) were consumed by breaks. Out of the 49 agenda items on the orders of the day, 13 were taken up.
Disrupting the proceedings, protests and walkouts consumed 8% (96 minutes) of the session time. The government allies staged walkouts during the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth sittings of the session.
ANP walked out of the House against target killings in Karachi and the Frontier Constabulary (FC) raid on Talal Bugti\’s home in Balochistan. The party’s Senators also left the House to protest presentation of a Standing Committee report on the dual nationality bill on the Private Members’ Day. The Senators belonging to main opposition party – PMLN – also protested against the Standing Committee report on the dual nationality bill, saying it was not on the agenda.
MQM Senators also walked out against target killings and violence in Karachi.
JUIF Senators staged a walkout over the killing of Ulema and the raids on seminaries. A PPPP Senator staged protests in the House in the first and the ninth sittings over the Islamabad High Court barring him from appearing on media.
Since the Senate 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 the Chairman, Deputy Chairman, Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition.
On average, only eight Senators were present at the outset and 23 at the end of each sitting during the session. Although the quorum was visibly lacking at various stages of the session, it was not pointed out by any of the legislators.
The Leader of the House attended the entire session while the Leader of the Opposition did not attend four sittings. The Chairman chaired the proceedings for 70% of the session time while the Deputy Chairman presided over 10% of the time.
The parliamentary leaders of BNPA and PMLF did not attend the session while the parliamentary leader of NP attended nine, JUIF six, ANP and MQM three each, and PML parliamentary head attended two sittings.
The Upper House passed two bills – the Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan Bill 2012 and the Airports Security Force (Amendment) Bill 2012. The Provincial Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2012 was introduced and sent to the Standing Committee.
However, two constitutional amendment bills – the Constitution (Twenty-Second Amendment) Bill 2012 and the Constitution (Twenty-Third Amendment) Bill 2012 were deferred. The constitutional bills seek amendments in the Article 63 and Article 240 of the constitution respectively.
Fifty-nine points of order consumed 13% of the total session time – 160 of 1249 minutes. None of them however attracted the Chair’s formal ruling. Unless the Chair gives a formal ruling on a point of order, it does not lead to any output.
Out of seven motions under rule 218 only one was debated in the House. The motion on law and order, which was taken up in the previous 86th session, was discussed for four hours and 16 minutes (20% of total session time).
However six motions under rule 218 on substandard medicines, using contaminated water for growing vegetables, late night phone calls packages, OGDCL performance, foreign policy and financial condition of Pakistan Railways were left unaddressed during the session.
Ten resolutions appeared on the agenda, but the House only adopted one asking the government to deweaponize Karachi in view of law and order situation in the city.
Additionally three Supplementary Resolutions – condemning the attacks by Israel on Gaza, congratulating Hindu community on the celebration of Diwali and expressing grief over the death of former Senator Syed Iqbal Haider – were adopted.
A Calling Attention Notice moved by PMLN and JUIF Senators on strike by CNG stations was not taken up by the House.
Only 31 out of 95 starred questions appearing on the orders of the day were taken up and responded to by the relevant minister. Additionally, 63 supplementary questions were also asked by Senators.
A personal privilege motion by an ANP Senator against misconduct by IG Punjab was referred to the Privilege Committee.
About FAFEN: Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), established in 2006, is a coalition of 42 leading civil society organizations, working to strengthen all forms of democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.
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