Senate’s 250th Session: Six Bills Passed, 10 Resolutions Adopted

  • PM remains absent during entire session
  • Senate’s representation in PAC ensured through amendment
  • House rejects National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2015

The Senate passed long-awaited Prevention of Electronics Crimes Bill 2016 during its 250th session held between July 18 and 29, 2016. In addition, the Upper House also carried a motion to insert new rule in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, 2012 for ensuring Senate’s representation in most powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Five other bills were also passed by the Senate besides adopting 10 resolutions during the reporting period.

With an average of 13% Senators present at the start and 21% at the end of each sitting, the session comprising 10 sittings took up most of its agenda. A maximum of 64 (62%) members, on average, attended the session along with the presence of three minority Senators.

On average, each sitting started almost at the scheduled time and lasted three hours and 53 minutes. The Prime Minister did not attend any of the sittings. An effective system of governance is the one where elected Head of the Government gets engaged in parliamentary interventions on a regular basis. Sub-rule (2A) of Rule 61 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate also states that the Chief Executive shall attend the Prime Minister’s Zero Hour (last hour of the sitting) at least once a week when the Senate is in session.

On the other hand, the Chairman attended the entire sittings and presided over 78% of the session’s time. The Deputy Chairman attended seven sittings and chaired 12% of the proceedings, while three percent of the time was presided over by members of the Panel of Presiding Officers and 7% time was consumed in breaks.

The Leader of the House was present in nine sittings and attended 64% of the session’s time, while the Opposition Leader remained present during nine sittings and attended 37% of the session’s time.

The parliamentary leaders of PML and PML-N attended 10 sittings each followed by MQM & PkMAP (9 each), BNP-A & PTI (8 each), ANP & JI (7 each), NP & PPPP (6 each), BNP-M (5), and JUI-F (4). The Parliamentary leader of PML-F did not attend any of the sittings.

The six government bills passed included the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finances) (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Credit Bureaus (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, 2016.

Two bills – the Protection of Economic Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University Islamabad (Amendment) Bill, 2016 –were deferred.

Six other bills introduced in the House were referred to the relevant standing committees for further deliberations. These included the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the State Life Insurance Corporation (Re-organization and Conversion) Bill, 2016; the Special Economic Zones (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Substitution of Article 28) and the Premarital Blood Screening (Family Laws Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The House rejected the National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2015 with a difference of one vote. After presentation of relevant committee’s report, the bill was made part of Senate’s agenda. The Chair ordered voting on the bill and the result was 20 votes on each side. After some time, the Chair again conducted voting on the bill, and some treasury members were seen coming to the House to cast their vote. As a result, the counting number tilted in favour of the treasury as 23 votes were polled against the bill and 22 in favour, leaving the bill rejected by one vote.

Three bills including the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Senate (Election) (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Amendment of Article 218) were withdrawn by their respective movers.

The House adopted 10 resolutions to pay tributes to the legendary Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi; condemn Indian aggression in occupied Kashmir; express condolence over death of Qawwal Amjad Sabri; promote religious harmony; show commitment and solidarity with democratic institutions of Turkey; condemn terrorist attack in Madina Munawara; show solidarity with the Kashmiri people over Indian aggression in the occupied Valley; control child begging in Islamabad; provide quality health services in Federal Government Hospitals and prepare a National Safety Plan and National Transport Policy for National Highways and Motorways.

Four resolutions on the agenda were deferred regarding construction of 250 km highway along the coast from Sir Creek to Karachi; necessary legislation in provinces except Sindh to regulate the Mental Health Act on priority basis; formulate policy to get rid of foreign loans and ensure provision of benefits of the Local Government System to masses in ICT in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

Two other resolutions to establish model jail/rehabilitation center of international standard for prisoners in Islamabad and control the increasing number of child beggars in Islamabad were dropped due to absence of movers.

The House took up 10 CANs on the jobs security of teachers and employees of Colony Boards and T&T Colony Haripur; obsolete flood warning radars in Pakistan; non-functioning of Colleges of Medical Lab Technology due to lack of teachers; the child labor figure in the country; delay in 8th NFC Award; acute shortage of water in various sectors of Islamabad; 22 Pakistani citizens stranded in Yemen; mismanagement involved in treatment of tuberculosis (TB) in public sector hospitals; policy of government in case any natural disaster and the decision of Higher Education Commission (HEC) to make it obligatory for students to appear in NTS test for taking admission in Master’s degree.

The Senate debated five out of nine motions under Rule 218 that dealt with the steps of poverty alleviation; matters of Universal Service Funds; issues faced by the Business Community regarding their refund claims in FBR; non-vacation of government quarters by unauthorized occupants and salary and other benefits to personnel of Islamabad Police.

Two motions regarding development of Bakrial City meant for 2005 earthquake affectees of Balakot and lowering water table in the country were deferred. A motion about arrangements for Hajj 2015 was dropped while another motion regarding performance of Benazir Income Support Program was not taken up.

Human rights issues were highlighted through various interventions during the session. Parliamentary interventions were used to discuss violation of human rights in occupied Kashmir, poverty alleviation steps in the country; women protection at work places; honor killings; rights of peasants at Okara farms; juvenile rights and safeguarding fundamental rights, including protection of property, equality of citizens, right of education, right of information, and freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution.

The House witnessed presentation of 22 reports of the standing committees while extension in time period was granted for submission of 10 reports under Rule 194 (1).

Two privilege motions of JUI-F lawmakers were admitted and forwarded to the relevant committee. One privilege motion was against DCO Gwadar while the other was against police officials at Chashma Barrage check post for their misbehavior with the lawmakers.

The House discussed Annual Report of the National Economic Council for Financial Year 2013-2014. Three adjournment motions were discussed relating to the wave of aggression by Indian Forces in occupied Kashmir; Pak-China relations and decision of FATA Secretariat to close down 497 schools of FATA.

The House adopted a motion to insert a new Rule 172F in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, 2012 to make basis for the representation of Senate in PAC. Following this amendment, the Senate shall elect six members one from each province, the Federal Capital and FATA for representation in PAC, out of which three will be from the treasury and three from the opposition benches.

Two separate motions for proposed amendments in Rules 56, 143, 196, 198 and 209 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012 were referred to the relevant committee.

A motion Under Rule 60 was dropped due to absence of its movers. This motion was regarding the names of persons and companies who got their debts written off during past 30 years, also indicating the amount written off in each case.

A total of 136 out of 192 (71%) Starred Questions were taken up on the floor of the House, while Senators raised another 264 Supplementary Questions. Of these, 26 were related to Ministry of Interior and Narcotics Control; Housing and Works, Water and Power (17 each), Communication (15), CADD (13), Petroleum and Natural Resources (12), Commerce and Finance (10 each).

The lawmakers raised 91 Points of Public Importance that consumed 333 minutes of the session’s time. Five Points of Order consumed five minutes of the proceeding.

Two agenda items of Senate Business were considered by the House. The first included the presentation of Draft Code of Conduct for Members of the Senate of Pakistan as finalized by the House Business Advisory Committee for information and feedback of members before operationalization while the second was regarding discussion on the existing situation, laws and policies related to the marginalized segments of society; vulnerable children, women, handicapped, transgender and the minorities.

The Chair gave three rulings during the session. The first one was about directions to Minister for Housing and Works to provide names of the ministries that have not furnished copies of the reply; while the second one was about the delay in tabling National Command Authority (Amendment) Ordinance 2016 in the House and the last one was to bring a resolution about non-implementation of UN resolutions in occupied Kashmir.

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