ISLAMABAD, March 15, 2013: Completing its five year term, the 13th National Assembly achieved a legislative agenda which altered the country’s governance structure by ensuring provincial autonomy and restoring the 1973 constitution, and promoted women’s empowerment, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) report on the five years performance of the lower house.
The lower house elected a woman speaker for the first time in Pakistan’s parliamentary history and the President addressed the joint sessions of the parliament for five consecutive years. Following the established parliamentary tradition, the Leader of the Opposition was elected as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
In 50 regular sessions, the National Assembly held 521 sittings – 100 in the first, 107 in the second, 108 in the third, 106 in the fourth and 100 in the fifth parliamentary year.
The National Assembly witnessed a historic change in the rules of procedure to allow standing committees to scrutinize ministerial budgetary proposals before made part of the federal budget.
A new Leader of the House was elected in the fifth parliamentary year after the Supreme Court disqualified the Prime Minister in the contempt of court case. Similarly in the fifth parliamentary year 11 MNAs resigned because of holding dual nationalities. Nine members of the lower house died during the five years, including Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti who was assassinated in Islamabad.
In the five parliamentary years, the National Assembly passed 134 bills – 116 government and 18 private members’ bills. Of them, 81 became acts of the parliament. The 12th National Assembly had passed 51 bills during its five-year term.
Though the National Assembly passed only five bills in the first parliamentary year, the legislation picked up pace in the second, third, fourth and fifth parliamentary years, with the lower house passing 32, 31, 29, and 37 bills respectively. Out of total passed government bills, 56 sought amendments in the existing laws and the rest were new bills.
These included the 18th and 20th constitutional amendment bills, which helped restored the 1973 constitution, ensured provincial autonomy and gave Pakistan a consensus mechanism for civilian transfer of power democratically, besides the formation of the full five-member Election Commission of Pakistan.
However the four bills to tackle terrorism were passed only in the fifth parliamentary year and that too in the last three sessions. Similarly the National Assembly failed to enact a new law on accountability despite the government introducing the National Accountability Act in October 2012.
The 13th National Assembly stands out for pro-women legislation, passing treasury and private members’ bills against domestic violence, harassment at workplace and public places, anti-women practices, and elevating the status of the commission on women.
Unlike the past assemblies, the Lower House witnessed the healthy trend of passing the private members’ bills. Overall 189 private members bills were introduced in the lower house, with 135 seeking amendments in the existing laws. Of them 18 bills were passed. PPPP lawmakers introduced the most 62 or 33% of the private members’ bills, followed by 53 each by PMLN and PML legislators.
The debate on budget lasted for 82 sittings during the five parliamentary years – 19 in the first, 14 in the second, 22 in the third, 17 in the fourth and 10 sittings in the fifth parliamentary year. On average the budget debate lasted 16 sittings in each parliamentary year.
Out of total 243 resolutions moved in the lower house in the five years, 85 were adopted. Six resolutions on women rights and five each on minorities’ rights and blasphemy were adopted. Similarly on a host of issues such as Balochistan, increase in prices of petroleum products, child rights, killing of polio workers and journalists, democracy, attack on Malala Yousafzai, terrorism, human rights, situation in Swat, NATO attack on Salala check post, target killings, missing persons, killing of Osama bin Laden, creation of new provinces, employment, and obscenity on cable TV, the lower house adopted resolutions.
In the five parliamentary years, 216 legislators asked 16,056 questions on the floor of the house, on average 3,211 questions every year. The government fully responded to 12,623 questions, with 3,357 queries remaining ignored, 68 received partial answers, six were withdrawn and two questions lapsed. In other words the government responded fully to 79% of the total questions submitted.
The main opposition PMLN asked the most questions, 9,903, which is 62% of the total questions. More active in their oversight role, 20 PMLN female legislators asked 5,347 questions, on average each of them asking 267 questions.
Overall 55 women legislators asked 8,138 questions compared to 161 men lawmakers asking 7,918 questions in the five years. Women parliamentarians elected on reserved seats fulfilled their oversight role, as they submitted almost 48% of the total questions.
Calling Attention Notices
During the five parliamentary years, legislators brought to the House’s notice issues of urgent public importance – 109 in the first, 108 in the second, 120 in the third, 122 in the fourth and 84 in the fifth year. Out of the 543 notices, the House took up 440 for discussion during the five parliamentary years.
In five parliamentary years, 23 legislators, among them five women and 18 men, did not take part in any parliamentary business. Of them, eight each belonged to PPPP and PML, two each to PMLN and ANP and one each to PMLF and NPP along one Independent.
Points of Order
A total of 311 lawmakers spoke on scores of constituency, national and international issues through 5,099 points of order in the five parliamentary years.
About FAFEN: FAFEN, a coalition of 42 civil society organizations, started the direct observation of the National Assembly proceedings in 2008, using a methodology based the rules of the parliamentary business. The direct observation was extended to the proceedings of Senate and the provincial assemblies in 2011.
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