Requisitioned 32nd NA Session Registers Low Attendance

ISLAMABAD, July 22, 2011: Parliamentary leaders of parties requisitioning the 32nd session of the National Assembly did not attend any of the two sittings of the thinly attended Session that concluded here on Friday.

The Leader of the House and parliamentary leader of single-member National Peoples Part (NPP), however, attended the session that was requisitioned by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) to discuss the recent violent incidents in Karachi, alleged government failure to implement Supreme Court orders and alleged rigging in recent elections held for Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly.

While parties having requisitioned the session could not ensure maximum attendance of their members, participation of treasury members also remained low. Almost 47% of the Members of the National Assembly attended the Session. An average of only 73 Members were present at the beginning of each of the two sittings, and 80 at the adjournment of each sitting. The Speaker of the House did not attend the entire session. The Deputy Speaker presided over the session for 311 minutes, and the remaining 31 minutes were chaired by a Member of Panel of Chairpersons.

A total of 13 Members –12 male and one female – took part in the debates during this two-sitting session that lasted five hours and 42 minutes. These debates consumed two-thirds of the total session time.

A party-wise analysis of time spent on debates by the Members of different parliamentary parties shows that Members of the PMLN had the highest participation, with five Members of the party speaking for 85 minutes. This was followed by four Members of the MQM, who spoke for 88 minutes. One Member each from two ruling parties – Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML) – spoke for 16 and 20 minutes, respectively. Two Independent Members also participated in the debate by speaking for 18 minutes.

Members of the MQM and PMLN spoke mainly on the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi and government’s performance. They issues came forth in the speeches of PMLN and MQM legislators included the alleged corruption case against a Punjab MPA Moonis Elahi, load shedding of electricity, rising poverty and energy crisis in the country.

The regular government agenda was suspended during the first sitting to debate on the three-point opposition agenda. Besides debate on a Motion under Rule 259 based on opposition parties’ agenda, a total of 22 Points of Order were raised during the Session, which utilized 59 minutes of the session. However, none of the Points of Orders raised by Members required the Speaker’s formal ruling. Members exchanged arguments about issues including the Business of the House and the law and order situation in the country.

The House witnessed two walkouts by the opposition benches during the session. In first instance, the Parliamentary Parties of the PMLN and MQM walked out of the House during the first sitting on the issue of Government’s agenda being itemized on the Orders of the Day, while the session was requisitioned by the Opposition. During the second sitting, Members of the MQM staged another walkout over the law and order situation in Karachi.

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 42 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.