LAHORE, September 25, 2012: The eight sessions of Punjab Assembly from September 2011 to May 2012 were marked by priority to amend laws after the 18th amendment, tackling the demand for new provinces, and the legislators raising concerns over health, education and law and order in the province, according to a report launched by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) on Tuesday.
The report is based on the direct observation of the Assembly proceedings done by PATTAN which is a FAFEN partner organization. FAFEN’s Parliament Watch project started observing the proceedings of the provincial assemblies in the second half of 2011.
The proceedings were also marked by tussles between the government and the opposition legislators during the eight sessions spread over 55 sittings which lasted 158 hours and 20 minutes. The House also witnessed walkouts and use of harsh language against each other.
The Chief Minister attended only two of the 55 sittings while the Leader of the Opposition was absent from 28 sittings. The parliamentary leaders of the MMAP, PML, PMLF and PMLZ also attended less than half all sittings during the eight sessions. The attendance of members in general was low, since on average only 51 MPAs were present at the beginning and 56 at the end of each sitting.
Of the 41 bills passed during the period under review, 37 were amendments to existing laws to suit the province’s jurisdictional needs after the passage of the 18th amendment – among them four were related to health, three economy and transport two. The four new bills passed during the eight sessions were aimed at facilitating private investment in the energy sector, giving ownership rights to tenants, establishing a university in Dera Ghazi Khan, and conserving the walled city of Lahore.
Introduced separately by the treasury and opposition benches, the House adopted resolutions on new provinces. Calling on the center to set up a commission on creating new provinces on the basis of administrative, historical, constitutional and political grounds, the provincial government moved two resolutions – one calling for creating Janoobi Punjab province and other restoring the provincial status of Bahawalpur. The opposition’s resolution called for creating a Janoobi Punjab province.
Overall out 64 resolutions on the orders of the day, 48 were adopted during the eight sessions. The adopted resolutions were about agriculture, child rights, democracy, development, disabled persons, economy, education, health and one calling for bringing to justice the killers of Nawab Akbar Bugti and taking solid and practical measures to bring Balochistan back into the national mainstream.
Out of the 249 adjournment motions moved by legislators, most (38) were related to health, followed by education (31), transport (22), and law and order (20). Of them 100 adjournment motions were disposed of, 115 were pending and 27 taken up, explanations were given for six and one was referred to the Standing Committee.
The provincial government responded fully to 98% of the 1419 starred questions moved by the legislators. Most of the starred questions were directed to the ministers of higher education (104), health (100), local government and community development (97), and agriculture (96). Only 12 unstarred questions were asked during the eight sessions. Women legislators asked 548 while their male counterparts asked 883 questions.
Out of the 24 Calling Attention Notices, only one was not taken up. Fifteen Calling Attention Notices were related to murders and injuries during robberies, and three were about deaths in police custody.
While the disposal of agenda items related to the executive’s oversight was swift, with more than 95% of all CANs and questions taken up and responded to, items left pending, such as 115 adjournment motions, may be because of including too many items on the orders of the day.
Another reason for low disposal of some agenda may be the excessive use of points of order to make speeches and rejoinders rather than pointing out any breaches in parliamentary discipline. The MPAs raised 339 points of order consuming 15% of the time otherwise allocated for regular agenda. Since the chair did not give a formal ruling on any of these points of order, they do not count towards any assembly output.
Pattan has been working with disaster prone and marginalised communities since 1992. Since its inception, it has adopted a holistic disaster risk reduction approach that stands on five themes: capacity building, gender mainstreaming, social action, governance monitoring and defending human rights and civil liberties. Research based advocacy is being used for public policy improvement.
Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), established in 2006, is a coalition of 42 leading civil society organizations working to strengthen all forms of democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. Governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA)
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