Appearance in media and absence from Assembly
ISLAMABAD: The politicians who frequently appear on TV screens are often found absent from the National Assembly sessions whereas the most punctual MNAs rarely make it to the media, The News has found through analysis of the attendance record.
Absenteeism is rampant among the who’s who of the political elite as if they have been voted to power for staying away from the parliament, reveal the record of last two sessions comprising 29-day sittings.
As the assembly has started uploading the attendance status of lawmakers on its website only after long-fought battle with the RTI activists, the publication of the record brings to limelight how punctual the MNAs are!
The record under analysis is of the latest two sessions comprising 29-sittings and it has been made public for the first time on the directions of the Presidency, the last appellant forum to decide on an RTI (Right To Information) application. The findings are intriguing and instructive both.
Imran Khan and Hamza Shahbaz Sharif appear to be in competition of boycotting the assembly session as neither of them attended the single sitting of the last two sessions including the one convened for the passage of the budget for the financial year 2015-16 that lasted for 15 days.
Imran skipped the budgetary session through leave application and was marked absent in the subsequent session whereas Hamza Shehbaz didn’t bother even to apply for leave in either session. His membership will be in danger if another session goes unattended.
Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif also seems averse to the idea of gracing the assembly that elected him as leader of the house. He was absent for 11 days during the budgetary debate and 13 days in the session that followed.
Several members of the cabinets have somewhat followed in PM’s footsteps by skipping the assembly proceedings. Prominent among them are Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (absent for 18 days), Ch. Nisar Ahmed (15 days), Abid Sher Ali (15 days), Khurram Dastgir (14 days), Ahsan Iqbal (13 days), Khawaja Saad Rafiq (13 days) and Khawaja Asif (11 days).
The only punctual minister is Riaz Hussain Pirzada who attended 28 sittings, out of 29. Tallal Chaudhry is an exception among those who frequently appear on TV but is among the punctual MNAs with 28-day’s attendance.
Other noted lawmakers and parliamentary leaders falling in the list of absentees are Makhdoom Amin Faheem, Zafrullah Jamali, Amir Haider Hoti, Dr. Farooq Sattar, Ch. Pervaiz Elahi, Faryal Talpur, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Dr. Fehmida Mirza, Daniyal Aziz and others.
Former commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Faheem skipped the budgetary session altogether whereas he remained on leave for eight days in the following session. Former NA speaker Dr. Fehmida Mirza was on leave for 28 days and one day absent, out of 30 days examined.
Former chief minister KP Amir Haider Hoti remained absent for 27 days. Former chief minister Punjab Ch. Pervaiz Elahi was absent for 23 days. MQM’s parliamentary leader Dr. Farooq Sattar made to this list by staying absent for 22 days. Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman was marked absent for 15 days, Faryal Talpur for 19 days and Daniyal Aziz for 18 days.
Among the most punctual MNAs who didn’t skip even one-day proceedings, are the following 18 names: Col (R) Ghulam Rasool Sahi, Ch. Asad-ur-Rehman, Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, Sardar Mumtaz Ahmed, Waheed Alam Khan, Sardar Amjad Farooq, Sheikh Fayyaz-ud-Din, Aftab Shaban Mirani, Tahira Aurangzeb, Seema Jameeli, Shaheen Shafique, Musarrat Rafique Mahesar, Shahida Akhtar Ali, Naeema Kishwar Khan, Begum Tahira Bokhari, Kiran Haider, Mst. Naseema, and Aliya Kamran.
The National Assembly’s attendance record used to be treated confidential until recently as the assembly secretariat had refused many requests seeking access to it. The record under analysis is peculiar in a sense that it has been made public for the first time and only on the direction of the Presidency.
A couple of RTI requests were rejected and the secretariat didn’t bother to honour the directions of the Federal Ombudsman, the appellant authority against such refusals. The secretariat instead challenged the FO verdict by filing representation before the President of Pakistan who directed for making the record public.