ISLAMABAD, June 28, 2013: Nearly half of the legislators took part in debate during the first budget session of the 14th National Assembly which was prorogued on Friday, says the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its preliminary report.
The session spread over 13 sittings from June 12 to June 28, 2013 lasted 85 hours. Each sitting on average met for six hours and 32 minutes. Similarly each sitting on average started 20 minutes late. Of the total session time, 41 hours and 25 minutes were spent on debating the budget.
The National Assembly incorporated 21 recommendations of Senate as it passed the budget during the 12th sitting. Ten members discussed the Senate’s recommendations for 72 minutes. Overall the upper house had forwarded 113 recommendations on the budget.
Out of the current 322 members in the house, 151 (47%) took part in the first budget session of the 14th National Assembly. Of them, 41% took part in the general discussion on the budget which lasted 32 hours.
The members raised 770 cut motions against 53 demands for grants allocated to ministries including the Interior, and Petroleum and Natural Resources. Overall 46 members debated the cut-motions for nearly six hours and 57 minutes. The PTI and the PPPP members shared their views on cut motions for 81 and 77 minutes respectively. The PMLN members debated cut motions for 57 minutes.
Twenty-one members (18 male and three female) spoke on the charged expenditures. Most of them – six – belonged to PTI, followed by five PPPP, four MQM, two JUI-F and one member each of PMLN, JI, AML and an Independent spoke on the charged expenditures for 76 minutes.
Nearly 101 minutes of the session’s time were spent on protests, walkouts and boycotts. PTI legislators walked out of the house for 60 minutes during the second sitting over increase in the power tariff and imposition of increased general sales tax. The JI members also walked out over the same issue but joined the proceedings after ten minutes. In the eighth sitting, the MQM first staged a four-minute token walkout over killing of its workers in Karachi and then boycotted the sitting over the same issue. The opposition staged a joint two-minute walkout during the eighth sitting over the imposition of the increased GST before the passage of the budget.
The House also unanimously adopted two resolutions which were jointly sponsored by the government and the opposition parties. The first resolution in the third sitting condemned the attack on Ziarat Residency, Quetta attacks, and kidnapping of five doctors in Loralai. In the tenth sitting, the house adopted a resolution to condemn the terrorist attack in Gilgit-Baltistan in which ten tourists were killed.
The Leader of the Opposition was present in all sittings and attended 48% proceedings whereas the Prime Minister attended two sittings. The Speaker chaired the 61% of the proceedings while the Deputy Speaker chaired the 32% proceedings. The rest of the proceedings were presided by the members of the Panel of the Chairpersons.
Since the National Assembly secretariat does not make the attendance record of the members public, the FAFEN conducts headcount at the start, at the end, and at the time when maximum members are present in each sitting. On average 103 members were present at the beginning of each sitting, and 89 at the end, while an average maximum of 198 members were noted at times of maximum attendance during the 13 sittings. On average, seven minority members were present in all sittings.
The house also took up 15 calling attention notices during the session, highlighting the issues of delaying passports’ issuance, need for a clear policy on drone attacks, power outages, floods, and maltreatment of Christian women in Kasur, among other issues. Two of the notices by PMLN members were about construction work on national highways and illegal cutting of old trees in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Members’ speeches on 235 points of order consumed 634 minutes or 12% of the session time.
About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 42 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountability in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.
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