NA Session Haunted by Quorum Issue Leaves 74% Agenda Unaddressed

ISLAMABAD:  The 41st session of the National Assembly was marked by low interest and thin attendance of lawmakers as the House witnessed multiple walk-outs, and protests by opposition parties against the Prime Minister in the wake of Supreme Court’s verdict on Panama Papers’ scandal.

Five out of eight sittings had to be adjourned due to lack of quorum while most of the agenda (74%) on Orders of the Day, including Private Members’ Day, remained unaddressed. The lawmakers belonging to PPPP resorted to seven consecutive walkouts against “enforced disappearances” of their party loyalists. They did not return to the House after recording their protest. The quorum was pointed out six times by PPPP lawmakers and twice by PTI legislators. The eight-sitting session started on April 12, 2017 and prorogued sine die on April 21, 2017.

MQM lawmakers also walked out of the House for 23 minutes during the first sitting against the “enforced disappearances” of their political workers. JI lawmakers resorted to walkout during seventh sitting against unsatisfactory reply to Calling Attention Notice (CAN) related to sufferings of patients due to unavailability of proper medical treatment at PIMS Hospital.

Opposition parties protested over Supreme Court’s verdict on Panama Papers’ scandal during the last sitting and demanded of the Prime Minister to resign from his office. Lawmakers belonging to ruling PML-N and opposition parties (PTI, PPPP) chanted slogans against each other. Opposition lawmakers surrounded the Speaker’s dais and tore apart the copies of agenda to express their indignation. Their protest continued for 14 minutes.

The interest of legislators in the proceedings remained low throughout the session. On average, 62 lawmakers were present at the outset and 57 at the adjournment of each sitting. The reporting session consumed 16 hours and 27 minutes, while on average, each sitting spanned over two hours and three minutes, starting with a delay of 18 minutes.

The Speaker presided over 44 % (seven hours and 15 minutes) of the session while 50 % (eight hours and 11 minutes) of the proceedings were chaired by the Deputy Speaker. The session, however, remained suspended for 63 minutes (6%) for want of required number of lawmakers after identification of quorum. The Prime Minister did not attend the entire session while his counterpart, the Leader of the Opposition, remained present for 35 % (three hours and 43 minutes) of the session’s working hours.

JI Parliamentary Leader attended every sitting of the session and was followed by leaders of APML (7), AJIP (6), AMLP & PKMAP (6 each), ANP (5), PML-F, PML-Z & QWP (4 each), PPPP, BNP &, NP (3 each) and PTI, NPP and JUI-F (one each). Parliamentary Leaders of MQM and PML did not attend any of the sitting.

Out of 125 agenda items during the session, 93 items (74%) remained unaddressed, 32 agenda items (25%) were taken up while one percent agenda was deferred. Entire Private Members’ agenda was left unaddressed.

The House unanimously adopted a resolution to condemn the cold-blooded murder of a university student in Mardan and expressed its resolve to amend the blasphemy law in order to prevent its misuse. Four lawmakers – one each of JUI-F, PTI, JI and MQM – spoke on the resolution for 13 minutes. Six other resolutions on the agenda were not considered by the House.

The House passed the Pakistan Council for Science and Technology Bill, 2017 and the Compulsory Teaching of the Holy Quran Bill, 2017. Twenty-two Private Members’ bills could not be considered due to the adjournment of sitting over lack of quorum pointed out by a PPPP lawmaker on Private Members’ Day.

The lawmakers, through Calling Attention Notices, drew the government’s attention to the issues relating to a letter of Accountant General Pakistan Revenues (AGPR) to the government employees on the issue of loans; electricity load-shedding; shortage of water supply in Islamabad; insufficient number of seats for admission of deserving students in schools of Islamabad and sufferings of patients due to unavailability of proper medical treatment at PIMS Hospital, Islamabad.

The House took up 48 out of 242 Starred Questions, while the legislators asked 128 supplementary questions. Lawmakers spoke on 37 Points of Order, highlighting various regional and national issues that consumed two hours and 47 minutes (17%) of the session’s time. Of 19 various reports appearing on the agenda, nine were presented in the House.

The House held 50-minute discussion on an Adjournment Motion regarding Pakistan’s role in the Islamic Military Alliance. Five PTI lawmakers participated in the discussion while the Minister for Defence concluded it.

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