Punjab Assembly Debates Local Government System

ISLAMABAD, August 8, 2013: Fifty-nine Punjab Assembly legislators participated in a three -day debate during the third session on the bill on introducing local government system in the province, says the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its preliminary report.

The session spread over five sittings from July 25 to August 1, 2013 lasted 12 hours and 13 minutes. Each sitting, on average, spanned two hours and 27 minutes. Similarly on average each sitting started an hour and 26 minutes behind schedule. The House observed a 48-minute prayer break during the third sitting.

Seventeen percent lawmakers – nine female and 50 male shared their views on the Punjab Local Government Bill 2013. The debate was dominated by 47 PML-N lawmakers (42 male and five female), followed by nine MPAs belonging to PTI (five male and four female). A male member each representing PPPP and PML and an independent member also debated the bill.

Additionally, three treasury-backed bills – the Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture Multan Bill 2013, the Punjab Boilers and Pressure Vessels (Amendment) Bill 2013, and the Punjab Animals Slaughter Control (Amendment) Bill 2013 were introduced.

The Punjab Police Order (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 was also laid during the proceedings.

Six calling attention notices on law and order issues in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Hassanabdal were tabled during the session. However none of the notices was taken up by the House because of the debate on the local bodies’ bill.

During the second sitting the House adopted a motion under Rule 240 to declare the Punjab Assembly as a polling station for the July 30 Presidential elections.

The Punjab Assembly does not make public its members’ attendance record; to this end the FAFEN observer conducts a headcount at the beginning, the end and at the time of maximum attendance in the plenary. Low members’ attendance was recorded during the session as on average a maximum 38% (133 MPAs) attended the proceedings. Three out of the eight minority members, on average, also attended the session.

The quorum although lacking on a few occasions was pointed out only once by a PTI MPA. The Chair directed the assembly bells be rung for five minutes and the proceedings resumed afterwards when the quorum was complete.

The Deputy Speaker chaired the proceedings of the whole session. The Chief Minister did not attend the session while the Leader of the Opposition attended four sittings, remaining present for two hours and 23 minutes.

The House unanimously adopted two PML-N sponsored resolutions; the first to pay tribute to the Special Secretary Punjab Assembly, Malik Aftab Joiya who passed away during the session and the other to condemn recent attacks on  holy places during the civil war in Syria.

The question hour was dispensed with in all sittings but one. Nine out of 18 starred questions addressed to the Schools Education Department on the agenda of the second sitting were taken up. Additionally, 20 supplementary questions were asked.

Legislators spoke on 32 Points of Orders consuming 21 minutes (3 %) of the proceedings. Most POs were regarding the business of the House and law and order.

The opposition members belonging to PTI, PPPP and PML staged a two-minute protest against the surge in petroleum and electricity prices.