ISLAMABAD, December 21, 2013: The 99th session of the Upper House of Parliament was marked by the passage of a private member’s bill, adoption of four resolutions amidst low senator’s attendance as the House left two-fifth of its agenda on the Orders of the Day unaddressed, says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its report, based on direct observation, on Saturday.
The House passed the Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill, 2013 that was introduced during the session’s first sitting. According to the objectives of private member’s bill, the civil servant holding dual nationality or citizenship of any foreign country should not be entitled for promotion to posts in Basic Pay Scale 20 or equivalent and above, to ensure the loyalty of senior bureaucrats “holding influential and sensitive posts”.
In addition, three anti-terrorism ordinances: The Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 (Ordinance No.VII); the Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 (Ordinance No.VIII) and the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance, 2013, were presented before the House.
The Standing Committees on Foreign Affairs, Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan; Climate Change, Defence and Defence Production; Cabinet Secretariat; Rules of Procedure and Privileges; and Capital Administration and Development laid their reports before the House.
The House unanimously approved amendments in Rules 158 and 161 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business (2012) of the Senate, sponsored by a PPPP senator, to form a Functional Committee on Human Rights.
Four resolutions on the agenda were adopted by the House. Two of these were tabled by PML-N lawmakers to express grief over the deaths of ex-Senator Muhammad Mukhtar Ahmad Khan and South African leader Nelson Mandela. The House also adopted a PPPP sponsored resolution over the increasing incidents of rape, particularly of minor girls in Pakistan.
Additionally, Senate debated two resolutions; the first recommending the government to publish names of the judges of superior judiciary holding dual nationality and the second calling upon the government to construct new water reservoirs in order to meet the water shortage in the country. The earlier resolution, moved by an MQM lawmaker, was adopted.
The House left 41% (21 out of 51) agenda items on the Orders of the Day, unaddressed. Nearly 60% (16 of 27 items) of the private member’s agenda on the Orders of the Day was not taken up as it was set ambitiously. Two resolutions, a motion under rule 218 and a question of privilege appeared as supplementary agenda.
The 13-sitting session was spread over December 2 till 20, 2013, consuming 33 hours and 47 minutes. On average, each sitting spanned two hours and 36 minutes, observing a 40 minutes delay. The House took four breaks taking up 6% (115 minutes) of the proceedings.
Since the Senate Secretariat does not make public the attendance of senators, FAFEN conducts a headcount at the start and end of each sitting. Low attendance was observed during the sitting as, on average, 17 lawmakers were observed at the start, 32 at the adjournment and 37 at the time of maximum attendance during a sitting.
Bypassing the regular agenda of the fifth sitting, the House held a 57-minute discussion to pay tributes to South Africa\’s first black President. The Leader of the House offered condolences for the deceased leader while 15 other senators eulogized the services of the late President for his services to humanity.
The House debated five Motions under Rule 218 regarding procedure laid down for appointment of superior court judges, steps required to be taken by the government to address the growing water scarcity in the country, the recent price-hike specially the prices of petroleum products, gas and electricity and essential items, and the government’s foreign policy on various subjects.
During the eleventh sitting, the finance minister briefed the House for 22 minutes on the government’s policy statement on the loans taken from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The parliamentary leaders of ANP and MQM were more regular as each attended 12 sittings, followed by BNPA and JUI-F parliamentary heads (four sittings each) and PML parliamentary leader attended three. Of the single member parties PML-F and NP senators were present in three sittings while the PkMAP member attended two.
The Chairman presided over 58% (19 hours and 33 minutes) of the session while the remaining time was chaired by the Deputy Chairman. The Leader of the House attended 12 sittings for 30 hours while the Leader of the Opposition attended 10 sittings for 22 hours and 16 minutes.
Ministerial absence was observed in the Question Hour. Only eighty of 235 Starred Questions (requiring oral replies) appearing on the agenda were taken up and responded to by the relevant ministry. Additionally, legislators asked 275 supplementary questions.
The House took up three calling attention notices on the delimitation of constituencies for the upcoming local government elections, the government proposal of closing down 450 small Railway stations and auction of Railway land and the alleged involvement of Islamabad Police personnel in criminal activities.
A total of 85 points of order were raised which consumed 13% of the session time. Three privilege motions, tabled separately by two ANP and one PPPP lawmakers, were referred to the concerned committees.
The House witnessed six token walkouts by the opposition consuming 27 minutes of the session time. The protests were regarding unsatisfactory answers provided by ministers during the Question Hour, discriminatory coverage of members’ speeches on state owned television channel (PTV), the privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills, delay in the calling of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) meeting, and provision of natural gas to Zhob, Balochistan.
This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of FAFEN and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union. This Daily Factsheet is based on direct observation of the Senate proceedings conducted by PATTAN Development Organization; a member organization of FAFEN. Errors and omissions excepted.
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