National Assembly: Inquiry Commission Bill, Extension in Ordinances Get Opposition’s Ire

  • 64 Lawmakers including PM, leaders of PTI and MQM Absent during Entire Session

The National Assembly passed five government bills and extended the term of two tax-related ordinances during its 37th session that ended on November 30, 2016. The government also introduced six new legislations which, along with a Private Member’s bill, were referred to the relevant standing committees following their first reading.

In addition to two resolutions for the extension of ordinances, the House adopted five resolutions on issues of public importance. Two of these resolutions denounced Indian aggression at the Line of Control as well as in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The lawmakers also offered condolences to the Cuban people on the demise of the revolutionary leader Fiedel Castro.

The attendance remained low in a number of sittings as three meetings had to be adjourned due to lack of quorum. According to official attendance records published on the website of the National Assembly, only 168 (49%) lawmakers attended each sitting on average. The actual attendance was even lower throughout the session as according to FAFEN headcount, on average, 34 (10%) lawmakers were present at the outset and 54 (15%) at the adjournment of each sitting. As many as 64 lawmakers including the Prime Minister, Federal Minister for Housing and parliamentary leaders of PTI, MQM, NP and AJIP did not attend any sitting of the session. The Leader of the Opposition also remained absent from five sittings.

The Assembly, on a number of instances, deviated from Orders of the Day and preferred supplementary agenda over the listed business. However, the House showed slightly improved performance in Private Members’ business as unlike the previous session most of resolutions and motions were taken up. But the second-stage reading of five Private Members’ bills was deferred due to treasury’s hesitation to approve these bills despite recommendations by the relevant standing committees. The ministers argued that the government was planning to introduce similar legislation and, therefore, the Private Member’s Bills should not be passed.

The confrontation between the treasury and opposition benches became more visible during the 37th session with the passage of the Inquiry Commission Bill amidst opposition’s boycott. The extension of two tax ordinances also drew opposition’s strong criticism.

The lawmakers underscored a number of human rights-related issues through questions during the reporting session. They inquired about Afghan refugees, Pakistanis jailed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Qatar and Japan. The problems being faced by Pakistani laborers and workers in Kingdom of KSA were also raised during the Question Hour. The Ministry of Human Rights answered three questions about honor-killings and the awareness about human rights. The questions were also raised on human trafficking, assistance to poor segments of society and misuse of blasphemy laws.

Although no specific case of human rights issue was taken up in other parliamentary interventions, the House took up a bill providing for welfare of disabled persons. The bill was deferred for a month on the government assurance that it would introduce a comprehensive legislation on the subject.

To download complete report, click here