NA passed contempt bill in only 68 minutes: Fafen
By: Ikram Junaidi
ISLAMABAD: According to a report by the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) group, the Contempt of Court Bill 2012 was rushed through the 44th session of the National Assembly in only one hour and eight minutes, to be sent to the upper house of parliament for approval.
The 13-article bill, which has provided some relief to holders of public offices vis-à-vis contempt of court, was passed with a simple majority in the house.
A total of 150 MNAs were present during the passage of the bill. The main opposition party, PML-N, along with some other opposition parties, protested against the bill.
The National Assembly has achieved several landmarks in the form of 18th, 19th and 20th Constitution amendments with political consensus, but on this occasion the bill was passed amid strong protests by opposition.
The session lasted 13 hours and five minutes for six sittings from July 6 to 13, on an average meeting for two hours and 29 minutes per sitting. Each sitting started with an average delay of an hour. Other than the passage of the contempt bill, the house also adopted another treasury-backed bill, the Special Economic Zones Bill 2012. The Medical and Dental Council (Amendment) Bill 2012 — a private member bill — was also passed.
Three ordinances — the Transfer of Railways (Amendment) Ordinance 2012, the Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan Ordinance 2012, and the Validation Ordinance 2012 — were laid before the house in the session.
According to a report, the participation of members remained low throughout the session. Only 36 per cent members — 87 male and 35 female — took part in the session either by submitting agenda items on Orders of the Day or by taking part in debates.
Male lawmakers appeared to be less active than their female counterparts. Their participation remained 34% of their current total membership — 258 – while female participation remained 46% of their current total membership – 76.
A total of 58 Points of Order consumed 29% of the total session time – 225 of 785 minutes. None of the Points of Order attracted the chair’s formal ruling. Without the chair’s formal ruling, a Point of Order does not lead to any output.
While participation of members was low, the attendance was relatively better than the previous sessions. On an average 75 members were present at the beginning of each sitting and 71 at the end.
The new prime minister attended three sittings for 232 minutes (30%) and the Leader of Opposition did not attend any of the sittings. The Speaker chaired the proceedings for 25% of the session time, the Deputy Speaker 57%, and the remaining 12% time was presided over by members of a panel of chairpersons.
Although quorum was visibly lacking at various stages of the session, it was not pointed out by any lawmaker.
As many as 28 members – 17 male and 11 female — sponsored eight calling attention notices. Of it six were taken up by the house.
The house also adopted three resolutions on child rights in Pakistan, killings of Muslims in Burma and tribute to Fatima Jinnah.
The house witnessed three walkouts consuming two hours and 43 minutes. The first two protests on the floor were staged by the PML-N who walked out twice, once for five minutes to protest against the reopening of Nato supplies and again for 132 minutes on the adoption of the Contempt of Court Bill 2012.
ANP lawmakers protested against the blast at an ANP rally near Quetta by walking out from the assembly for 26 minutes during the sixth sitting.