Most MPAs take little interest in assembly sessions
By: Azfar ul-Ashfaque
KARACHI, Sept 29: Most lawmakers in the 168-member Sindh Assembly did not take much interest in parliamentary business and not even bothered to attend the sessions on a regular basis, as the average attendance rate in the house was not even half of the total number of the elected representatives during the five sessions held between Nov 18, 2011 and May 8, 2012, says a report of the Free and Fair Election Network.
“The members’ attendance reflects upon their interest and presence in the parliamentary proceedings and their representative roles. The attendance of the Sindh Assembly remained low, as on average 28 per cent members were present at the beginning and 41 per cent at the end of a sitting,” the Fafen report said, adding that on average 46 members were present at the outset of the sittings and 68 at the end of the sitting.
The report, based on direct observation of the assembly proceedings done by the Pakistan Press Foundation, was launched on Saturday at a programme attended by deputy speaker of the Sindh Assembly Shehla Raza, some MPAs and members of civil society.
While one sitting of the assembly cost millions of rupees to the exchequer, the Fafen report said that during the November-May period the assembly held five sessions comprising 48 sittings and the average time of the sittings was two hours and 18 minutes.
The report said that the chief minister attended only 15 sittings. The speaker was not present in 10 out of the 48 sittings whereas the deputy speaker was not present in 22 sittings. The parliamentary party head of the MQM was present in 45 sittings, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Awami National Party was in 29 sittings. The parliamentary party heads of the PML-F, National People’s Party and the PML were present in 23, 19 and 15 sittings, respectively.
The low participation of the Sindh lawmakers in the assembly’s business was also reflected in the fact that only 34 members had asked a total of 536 questions during the period.
The report observed that women lawmakers showed more interest in asking questions than their male counterparts. Of the 137 male lawmakers in the house, only 19 (14 per cent) had asked 182 questions, while half of the total 30 women legislators had asked 354 questions (66 per cent).
It said that 77 MPAs — 58 male and 19 female — raised 398 points of order, while the house witnessed four protests — two by the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and one each by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and a minority lawmaker.
The Sindh Assembly passed 14 bills out of 24 that appeared on the agenda, achieving a legislation output rate of 58 per cent, the report said, adding that of the 14 government bills eight were amendments to existing laws. The house did not pass any of the four private members bills, including the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill 2008.
The house adopted 40 of the total 48 resolutions submitted by lawmakers.
The Sindh Assembly also condemned forced conversion of minority community members, called for highlighting their
contribution in the curriculum in the country’s progress, recognising citizens’ inalienable right to good health and sought peace and promotion of girls’ education in Swat.
A Fafen representative, Adnan Anjum, said the assembly secretariat did not make public information on members’ attendance and Fafen conducted a headcount of the members at the start, in the middle and at the end of each sitting.
Deputy speaker Shehla Raza agreed that the attendance of members at the outset of a sitting was low as MPAs were arriving late to the house, but their participation was always very high at the time of passage of a bill. She termed the 58 per cent legislation output a very good result.
PPF secretary-general Owais Aslam Ali, Sadeqa Salahuddin, MPAs Zareen Majeed, Saleem Khurshid Khokhar, Pitambar Sehwani, Khwaja Izharul Hasan and others also spoke.