ISLAMABAD, March 25, 2014: The Punjab Assembly passed five bills including the Punjab Fair Representation of Women Bill 2014 in the seventh session amid the introduction of seven other bills and budget debate, says Free and Fair Election Network in its preliminary report based on direct observation of Punjab Assembly’s proceedings.
Some of the passed bills focused to improve women representation in the mainstream decision making and health and educational matters. One of the Bills on women rights – the Punjab Fair Representation of Women Bill 2014 – aims to remove structural and social barriers by giving a fair representation to women at senior management level in all private and public organizations and entities. The other four bills, the Punjab Assembly passed focus on good governance as they aimed to improve reproductive and maternal health, payment of wages, educational institution and development of cities. These Bills were the Punjab Reproductive, Maternal, Neo-natal and Child Health Authority Bill, 2014, the Punjab Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill 2013, the Lahore Garrison University Bill 2014 and the Punjab Development of Cities (Amendment) Bill 2014.
The seven bills which were introduced and sent to relevant committees for further consideration were also on the issues of good governance and industrial development. The Punjab Public Private Partnership Ordinance 2014 was also brought before the House which was sent to the relevant committee. One of the introduced Bill – the Punjab Prohibition of Sheesha Smoking Bill, 2014 was the first private member bill introduced in the House in 16th Punjab Assembly.
In the seventh session of Punjab Assembly, a total of 63 members – PML-N (47), PTI (14) and PML (two) – took part in pre-budget debate for the fiscal year of 2014-15. The debate was conducted in the last three sittings of the session (9th, 10th and 11th) which consumed 19% of the total sessions’ time. Through debate, the members identified weak areas which need to be focused in the upcoming budget and also expressed their views on health, education and development sector conditions. The members urged to make a uniform educational system by abolishing three types of syllabus and misuse of educational institutions. The Provincial Finance Minister assured the legislators of considering their proposals while finalizing financial planning.
The House adopted 12 of the 14 resolutions and deferred remaining two. PML-N members tabled seven resolutions and all of them were subsequently adopted. The House adopted one of the two PML sponsored resolution and the other was deferred. Four of the five PTI resolutions were also adopted and one was deferred. Interestingly, the House seemed keen taking up women rights issues as three of the adopted resolution requested better facilities for women and protection of their rights. The other adopted resolutions requested good governance (seven), end of terrorism (one) and strengthening of democracy (one).
In seventh session, two reports were presented before the House. These were the annual reports of the Punjab Pension Fund for the years 2010-11 and 2011-12 and a report on the Punjab Reproductive, Maternal, Neo-natal and Child Health Authority Bill, 2014.
Sixty-nine members asked 299 starred questions from 10 ministries/departments. Of the 299 questions, the House took up 101 questions, leaving 198 as not taken up. On the 101 taken up questions, MPAs asked 229 supplementary questions. Although questions are tool for government oversight, in Punjab Assembly, MPAs of the ruling party did the government oversight most as PML-N legislators submitted 155 questions, followed by PTI (68 questions), PML (28 questions) and PPPP (23 questions), respectively. Members of JI and Independent also took part in the Question Hour.
Of the seven calling attention notices (CANs), the House took up five on the surge in crimes and sexual harassment of a minor student. The House did not take up one CAN and also left another pended. Both of CANs were also on increasing crime rates.
Five lawmakers – PML-N (three), PTI and Independent (one each) – submitted five privilege motions. A single PML-N and a PTI motion were sent to the Privilege Committee for further probe while the House deferred the remaining three.
Commencing from March 7-21, 2014, the seventh session met for 11 sittings with an average sitting time of three hours and 36 minutes. Each sitting on average, started an hour and 15 minutes behind schedule.
Punjab Assembly is the largest of all six legislative bodies of the country with 368 members. In the seventh session, attendance of MPAs was extraordinarily low as on average, only 38 out of 368 members were present at the start of the sitting and 65 at the time of adjournment, which rose to a maximum of 98 members at any one point in the proceedings. Due to low presence of members, low quorum was pointed out five times by PTI and PML lawmakers. Three sittings were adjourned till next day due to low quorum while two were resumed to business as quorum was found complete on counting. On average half of the minority members (four) attended the session.
Sixteen-percent of the session’s time was chaired by the Speaker whereas the Deputy Speaker presided 78% of proceedings and panel of Chairpersons three percent. The remaining three percent was consumed in two session breaks. The Chief Minister attended one sitting (three percent of session’s time) while his counterpart Leader of Opposition was present in 10 of the 11 sittings (53%). Parliamentary leader of PPPP was present in nine sittings and JI in five. Parliamentary leaders of BNP-A, PML, PML-Z and PNM-L did not attend a single sitting.
During the session, nine walkouts consumed an hour and 34 minutes. Entire opposition walked out five times in the session over House matters, government failure on ensuring law and order and harassment of a female PTI MPA by the provincial minister. The entire
Opposition except JI also walked out once against the self-immolation of a rape victim in Muzaffargarh. Three walkouts by single MPAs – PTI (two) and PPPP (one) – were also the part of session.
Lawmakers spoke on 150 points of orders, which consumed seven percent of session’s time.
The preliminary report is based on direct observation of Punjab Assembly proceedings conducted by PATTAN, a member organization of FAFEN.
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