ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly elected its Speaker and passed three bills during its 25th session that started on November 6, 2015 and was concluded on November 11, 2015. Members of the National Assembly elected Sardar Ayaz Sadiq as Speaker with majority vote during second sitting of the session. Mr. Sadiq had previously served as Speaker of the National Assembly from June 3, 2013 to August 22, 2015.
Twenty-fifth session of the National Assembly was relatively shorter as it was prorogued a week earlier than it was scheduled to end. The impetus for early prorogation was provided by upcoming second phase of Local Government Elections (LGE) on November 19, 2015. However, the schedule for LGE had been announced well before the meeting of House Business Advisory Committee where it was decided to continue the session till November 18, 2015. But, this decision was reviewed midway of the session to spare lawmakers for their election-related engagements. This event demonstrates the weakness of decision-making process at committee stage.
The session did not yield much, apparently due to the little interest of treasury benches in proceeding of the House. Only 30% of the session’s agenda was addressed while larger portion of it could not be taken up. Throughout the session, the House kept ignoring the private members’ business while the government agenda sailed through quite smoothly. It is worth mentioning here that the National Assembly was meeting after a break of nearly three months and a heavy legislative agenda was pending before it.
The National Assembly passed three important government bills during this session while extended the term of an ordinance for an additional period of 120 days. The House passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2015 without much resistance by Opposition benches. The passage of this bill into law would further empower the civil security agencies and armed forces by extending legal cover to detentions made by security forces in the past. The Lower House also passed the Minimum Wages for Unskilled Workers (Amendment) Act, 2015 to bring the federal law in conformity with the announcements by provincial governments of increasing minimum wages during last few years. The Income Tax (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015 was extended for a further period of 120 days. The Ordinance was brought to reduce from 0.6% to 0.3% levy on each bank transaction.
The Question Hours were marred by absence of the ministers or their representatives. Once during the session, the Chair was intrigued to suspend the proceeding for half an hour due to absence of the secretaries of relevant ministries. Similarly, the presentation of five reports of the standing committees on various legislative proposals and privilege motions was also deferred. The disinterest of the treasury can be gauged from the fact that a government Motion under Rule 259, pending before the House since last session, was disposed of without any discussion or ministerial response.
However, positively enough, the House approved a motion to carry forward the remaining agenda items of this session to next session. Otherwise, according to the rules, the notices of each kind of business other than of resolutions, motions and amendments would have elapsed on prorogation of a session.
The participation of the lawmakers also remained low during 25th session as only 107 (32%) lawmakers in a House of 339 participated in the proceeding.
The National Assembly, however, can feel accomplished on one count i.e. Calling Attention Notices. The House took up all four CANs appearing on its agenda. It is interesting to note that three of the four notices were regarding the issues of capital and were brought by lawmakers hailing from other federating units i.e. Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Though there is no bar on parliamentarians to only take up matters of their own constituency but it raises eyebrows when a plethora of issues keep plaguing the provinces but what the representatives care about is only the federal capital.
Like most of the sessions, the misuse of Points of Order continues in current session of the National Assembly. More than a third of the Assembly’s time was consumed by POs. An amendment in the National Assembly’s Rules of Procedure was also moved but not taken up on the floor of the House.
The House is likely to convene its next session right after the second phase of LGE and would take up the agenda left during this session.
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