NA Session Marked by Politicking and Low Attendance

  • Private Members’ Agenda Becomes Victim of Absenteeism
  • PPPP, ANP Parliamentary Leaders Attended all Six Sittings

 ISLAMABAD, September 9, 2016: The National Assembly could not take up a considerable portion of its agenda during 35th session owing to low attendance and political tussle between treasury and opposition benches.

The session began with a resolution against the provocative statements of MQM supremo Altaf Hussain against Pakistan and ended with a walkout by parliamentarians of MQM against “pushing the party to wall” despite dissociating itself from the remarks of its founder. Remainder of the session was described by the controversy emanating from the rulings of the Speaker on the disqualification references against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, PTI Chief Imran Khan and other lawmakers. The opposition parties accused the Custodian of the House of showing partisanship in his rulings. They protested on floor of the House as well as staged walkouts from the proceedings.

Both the Prime Minister and the PTI leader are often criticized for staying absent from the Parliament, however, the two attended one sitting each during this session. The attendance of other lawmakers showed fluctuating trends and one sitting was adjourned due to lack of quorum.

A number of legislative proposals were dropped or deferred while several standing committee reports could not be presented due to the absence of relevant lawmakers. The private members agenda also became casualty of low attendance.

The treasury legislation focused on taxation, security and agriculture while the private members’ legislative proposals were concerned with transparency, accountability, human rights and matters of federation.

Human Rights Issues

The lawmakers underlined a number of human rights issues during 35th session by bringing legislative proposals and seeking government oversight through questions. Unlike the previous session, no human rights issue was raised on Calling Attention Notices or Motions under Rule 259. The main issues discussed during the proceedings were related to forced conversions, misuse of blasphemy laws, state of minorities, rehabilitation of families affected by war on terror, and violence against women and children. Some of these issues were raised during the last session which had remained unaddressed.

Though some human-rights specific legislative proposals were similar as submitted during last session, but there was a new government bill namely the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016 providing for solemnization of marriages between the people of Hindu community. The community has been demanding a law for registration of their marriages since long. However, this bill could not be introduced despite being on the agenda twice. The bills on protection of minorities and minorities’ rights commission, pending since last session, were deferred again. A bill providing for rehabilitation and welfare of disabled persons was also dropped due to the absence of relevant lawmaker.

The lawmakers also highlighted issues of human rights during Question Hours by asking seven questions related to the forced conversion of religious minorities, violent crimes against women, establishment of minorities commission, rehabilitation of families affected by the military operations, Pakistanis stranded in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, misuse of blasphemy laws and the status of refugees in the country.

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