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> The NRO and the Competition Commission: the 17th Session of the National Assembly offers a mix of Lessons of Triumph of Citizens’ Will and Defeat of Citizens’ Rights
17th Session Roundup
November 23, 2009

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  • The Session meets for 11 days and passes only 1 Bill and 1 Ordinance
  • The House met for an average of 2 hours 44 minutes a day
  • 9 Government-Bills Introduced: Only 1 passed indicating only 11 % Legislative Efficiency of the Government
  • Lapse of the Competition Commission Ordinance to be a major blow to public confidence in Parliament;
  • Only 19 Bills have been passed by the National Assembly in 17 Sessions; 71 Government Bills remain pending: legislative efficiency stands at 22 % or government was able to get only about 1 out of 5 bills passed in the House
  • The crucial Parliamentary Committees on National Security and Constitutional Reforms report no developments


Islamabad, November 23: The PILDAT Roundup of the 17th Session of the 13th National Assembly analyses that the session, which does not have a lot to offer overall in terms of legislative achievements, brings forth in the shape of its treatment of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and the Competition Commission Ordinance (CCO), a strange mix of lessons both of the triumph of citizens’ will and views and the defeat of citizens’ rights as consumers as protected by existing legislation.


In the session 16 of the National Assembly, 27 Ordinances dating back to 2007 were tabled before the National Assembly and referred to various Standing Committees. Amongst them was the highly contentious National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), as well as the Competition Commission Ordinance, both of which became significant issues in this session. Ultimately the NRO was withdrawn, when it became clear that the Government’s allies would not support it. It is interesting to note that even though the NRO has been and continues to remain critical for the ruling PPP and especially for the person of the President Mr. Asif Ali Zardari who is considered the key beneficiary of the NRO, the Assembly could not undertake the passage of the NRO due to severe public criticism and pressure against it. The near unanimous public disapproval of the NRO forced key allies of the government, chiefly the MQM, to publicly announce they would not support the passage of the NRO in the Parliament. Can this be heralded as a victory for the citizens that their negative view of a very critical piece of legislation forced the government to withdraw it from the Parliament? However, the Government, which had expressed its willingness to produce a list of beneficiaries of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in the National Assembly during the session on November 05, 2009, failed to do so till the session was prorogued on November 16, 2009.


Another noteworthy case is that of the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) whose very existence and its decisions remain at risk unless the National Assembly passes the ordinance before November 28 or the President re-promulgates it. The Competition Commission Ordinance 2007 although was approved without any amendment by the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance on November 12 and forwarded to the Assembly, in a rather strange move, it was sent back to the Committee for further review by the National Assembly Speaker Dr. Fehmida Mirza. The Commission’s Chairman has accused “certain lobbies and business tycoons .. against the validation of the ordinance” because of which the ordinance is said to have not been approved in the session. The current Chairman of the Commission Mr. Khalid Mirza was first rather unceremoniously removed by the Prime Minister from his post in September 2009 which was largely seen as a result of his imposition of a multi-billion rupees fine on cement manufacturers due to cartelisation resulting in hike of cement prices to the disadvantage of consumers, issuance of a show cause notice to the Pakistan Steel Mills and to Pakistan Banks Association and his views on the Ministry of Industries' alleged complicity with the sugar mills association. Although he was reinstated by the Prime Minister within the same week following critical media comments, the failure of the government not to get the ordinance passed by the Assembly now is being seen as a deliberate effort to kill the Commission itself. Interestingly, the media has reported reservations on the ordinance from major parties in the Parliament which are seen to be coming from parliamentary leaders from across the aisles who own mills mainly the ones producing sugar that have been the focus of CCP's investigation and warnings lately. The case of the handling of the Competition Commission ordinance would strengthen the public perception that parliamentary leaders, despite political differences, join hands when their personal interests are threatened. If the Competition Commission Ordinance is allowed to lapse and the Competition Commission made to die, it will be a major blow to public confidence in the Parliament, PILDAT holds.


The 17th session of the 13th National Assembly that took place from November 02-16, 2009 held a total of 11 sittings. The House met for an average of 2 hours and 44 minutes per day.


The 17th session of the 13th National Assembly passed only 1 bill out of 9 government-introduced bills during the session which indicates only 11 % efficiency. 1 ordinance that dates back to 2007 was also passed in the session.


In the total 17 sessions of the 13th National Assembly, only 19 bills have been passed, an average of 1.11 per cent per session. This brings the legislative efficiency of the National Assembly to 22 % or that the government was able to get only about 1 out of 5 bills passed so far. These 19 passed legislations also include 2 private members bills and 1 ordinance. Therefore, out of a total of eighty seven (87) government bills that have so far been introduced in the House, only 16 have been passed. The Government’s legislative efficiency in the National Assembly stands at 18.39 per cent or in other words the government was able to get only 1 bill passed out of over 5 (5.43) bills introduced in the 13th National Assembly so far.


A total of eighty one (81) private members bills (an average of 4.76 per session), reflecting the active interest of non-treasury members, have so far been introduced in the House. A total of eight (8) ordinances, seven (7) dating back to 2007, following the July 2009 judgement of the Supreme Court, and one (1) ordinance of 2009, were laid in the House.


The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms, that comprises all political parties represented in the Parliament, held 5 meetings during the 17th session. The committee which was constituted in June 2009 to develop consensus on critical constitutional reforms, chiefly the 17th Amendment, has not officially reported back to the Parliament on its proposed reforms despite a period of nearly 5 months and over 25 meetings.

Another crucial committee, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, also chaired by Senator Raza Rabbani, held a meeting on November 3, 2009. The Committee, which was formed back in November 2008, holds only in-camera sittings and despite the span of one year, the public and the media remain uninformed about the number of meetings the committee has held, details of its deliberations, or the nature of the oversight role it has performed vis-à-vis the government over one of the gravest challenges Pakistan faces today in the realm of national security.

The day by day summary of the sittings and the details of the Roundup can be obtained here