NA works much harder in second year
By Amir Wasim
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly has improved its performance in terms of legislative business as it passed 30 bills in the second parliamentary year as compared to only four in the first year.
However, throughout the second parliamentary year, which will end on March 15, the National Assembly sessions were marked by low attendance, lack of interests by the members, unfinished agenda and absence of ministers.
In the second parliamentary year, the National Assembly has so far held eight regular sessions, whereas it had held 11 sessions in the first parliamentary year. As many as four joint sittings were also convened during the second parliamentary year.
Like previous National Assembly, the members, including from the treasury benches, kept on raising the issue of the ministers’ absence from the proceedings, forcing the speaker and the deputy speaker to defer the agenda a number of times.
On some occasions, Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi even threatened to adjourn the proceedings of the house if the ministers continued to show lack of interest.
Journalists, who have been covering the parliamentary proceedings for the past many years, are of the view that the quality and standard of the debate and speeches were constantly declining.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, however, set a new tradition of attending maximum number of sittings and responding to various queries of the members. The prime minister also made policy statements and some important announcements on national issues on the floor of the house.
The National Assembly passed one bill (the Finance Bill 2009) in June, eight bills in August, four in October, two in November, 10 in January 2010 and five in February 2010.
The five bills passed by the National Assembly in its last sitting, held from February 8 to 26, are: The Pakistan Naval Academy (Award of Degrees) Amendment Act 2010; The Patents (Amendment) Act 2010; The National School of Public Policy (Amendment) Act 2010; The Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority Act 2010; and The Banking Companies (Amendment) Act 2009.
Meanwhile, according to a report on this session by the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) – an alliance of some 30 civil society organizations, the lower house remained in session for 46 hours and two minutes.
The average length of a sitting was three hours and four minutes. The shortest sitting lasted for one hour and 45 minutes. None of the sittings started at the scheduled time, registering average delay of 33 minutes, says the report.
Prime Minister Gilani was present in 14 out of 15 sittings, with the exception of the last sitting. However, Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan did not attend six sittings.
More than half of the MNAs (173 members out of a total of 339) took part in parliamentary discussions. A total of 106 members sent their leave applications for being absent from the 19th session.
On an average, only 46 members were present at the outset of each sitting while the average number of MNAs present in the House at the end of each sitting was 74. The lowest count of members was recorded at 19 during the 12th sitting.
As many as 19 out of 30 calling attention notices on the Orders of the Day were discussed.
A total of 424 questions were put forward by the members during “Question Hour”, out of which 238 questions (56 per cent) were put by female parliamentarians. The highest number of 248 questions was asked by the PML-N members followed by 108 by the PPP.
Besides of passage of five bills, 13 ordinances were also laid before the National Assembly. Around 49 per cent of items on the Orders of the Day (a little less than half of the business agenda) were not taken up during the session.
The members spoke on different issues on 298 points of order, in clear violation of the rules.