ISLAMABAD, December 22, 2013: Marked by the boycott of opposition benches over remarks of Federal Interior minister and low attendance of legislators, the 7th session of the National Assembly left 57 % of the agenda items on the Orders of the Day unaddressed, says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its Preliminary report on Sunday.
The interest of legislators in the proceedings remained low throughout the session. On average, 65 lawmakers were present at the outset while 61 at the adjournment of each sitting. Since the National Assembly does not make public the attendance of members, FAFEN conducts a headcount at the start and end of each sitting and documents the actual time spent by the members on the floor of the House, including the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
The session held 12 sittings from December 5 to 20, 2013, consuming 37 hours and 26 minutes. On average, each sitting spanned three hours and seven minutes, with a delay of 31 minutes.
The Speaker presided over 42 % (934 minutes) of the session time while the remaining proceedings were chaired by Deputy Speaker 39 % (880 minutes) and a member of the panel of chairpersons 11 % (257 minutes). Eight percent of the session time (175 minutes) was consumed by various breaks. The Prime Minister did not attend the entire session while his counterpart, the Leader of the Opposition, was present for 28 % (619 minutes) of the session time.
Around 43 % of the agenda items appearing on the Orders of the Day were addressed while 57 % remained otherwise. Three private members\’ bills were introduced during the session, including two seeking amendments in articles 51, 59 and 106 of the Constitution, to reserve four seats for the disabled persons in each House of the Parliament i.e. National Assembly and Senate, and to increase the number of seats for religious minorities in National Assembly as well as in all four provincial assemblies.
Additionally, the Cantonment Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2013, and the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Bill, 2013 were introduced while the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2013 was laid in the House.
Seven out of 15 resolutions on the agenda were adopted during the session. These included the Lower House condemning the drone attacks by the allied forces on the territory of Pakistan,
execution of JI leader Abdul Qadir Mullah in Bangladesh, expressing condolence over the demise of Nelson Rolihlaha Mandela, calling upon the government to take steps for poverty alleviation, setting up separate universities in Hyderabad and Sahiwal and appreciating the efforts of the government for wooing UN General Assembly adopt a resolution against drone strikes.
A resolution demanding the government for taking immediate steps to resolve the issue of construction of dams by India on the waters of Pakistan was also debated by the House.
The House deliberated upon four motions under rule 259. The debate on increase in prices of various commodities continued for three hours and 40 minutes, followed by law and order in the country (two hours and 35 minutes), performance of PIA (27 minutes) and non-availability of clean drinking water in Islamabad Capital Territory (seven minutes).
Out of 36 members who participated in the debate, 14 belonged to PML-N, six PPPP, four each MQM & PTI, three JI, two Independents and a single legislator from AMLP, PkMAP and JUI-F.
Sixteen (16) out of eighteen (18) calling attention notices were taken up which were related to the Ministries of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination; Communications; Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization; Water and Power, Petroleum and Natural Resources and Cabinet Secretariat.
Two Standing Committee reports were presented before the House; one each by Committees on Cabinet Secretariat and Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs and Statistics. The quorum, pointed out by PPPP and PTI legislators during 5th and 10th sittings, adjourned the sittings while one proceedings remained suspended for 60 minutes during 12th sitting due to lack of quorum pointed by PTI MNA.
Out of 478 starred questions on the agenda, the House took up 63 only, while the legislators asked 110 supplementary questions. Highlighting various regional and national issues, lawmakers spoke on 124 points of orders, consuming seven hours and 46 minutes (21% of the session time).
Three walkouts were documented during the proceedings, consuming 58 minutes. The entire opposition walked out for 54 minutes against the privatization of state-owned institutions while MQM walked out for two minutes each against Local Government ordinance in Sindh and state minister for water and power for not replying to one of their questions.
With the exception of MQM and JI, the entire opposition benches boycotted the session over the alleged misconduct of the federal minister for interior. The opposition got angered over the use of word “Tamasha”(drama) by Interior minister during his speech in the National Assembly in 10th sitting (December 18) and demanded of him to tender apology. They continued their boycott until the session was prorogued sine die on December 20, 2013.
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