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> PILDAT issues Performance Analysis of Provincial Assemblies
   Sindh and KP Assemblies score the highest; Punjab Assembly the lowest during first year
 

September 26, 2014
Islamabad

   

September 26: A PILDAT Comparative Performance Analysis of 4 Provincial Assemblies puts the Sindh Assembly at the top by scoring the highest at 69 out of 100, followed by the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 67, the Balochistan Assembly at 60 and the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab at a score of 58.

Score Card – Performance of the Provincial Assemblies
Based on a comparative performance analysis of Pakistan’s Provincial Assemblies, PILDAT prepared a Score Card by evaluating each performance indicator on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the lowest and 10 the highest). Below is the Score Card:

The comparative performance overview has been carried out by PILDAT as part of its Citizens’ Assessment of Pakistan’s Legislatures. The assessment has been carried out by looking at the first Parliamentary Year from May 2013 to June 2014 of the 4 Provincial Assemblies that came into being after the May 2013 General Election.

The Sindh Assembly outdid the other 3 Provincial Assemblies by passing 36 bills. It was followed by the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, which passed 31 bills. Third on the legislative performance ladder was the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which passed 28 bills while the Balochistan Assembly passed 25 bills.

Interestingly, according to the Public Opinion Poll conducted by PILDAT on the Quality of Democracy in Pakistan,1 the highest Net Performance Rating (NPR) given to any Provincial Assembly for its legislative performance was for the Balochistan Assembly at +22%, followed by the Punjab Assembly at +5%. The Sindh Assembly which has passed the highest number of bills for the first Parliamentary Year scored the lowest NPR amongst all the Provincial Legislatures at -19% followed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly at -9%. This lack of corroboration between the public perception and the legislative activity of the Assemblies could denote either one of two factors: either that the citizens are not well acquainted with the legislative activity of their Provincial Assembly or, they are not satisfied by the subject areas legislated upon.

 
 


Formation of the Standing Committees
All 4 Provincial Assemblies displayed a disappointing disregard for timely election of respective Standing Committees that are critical tools for legislative Oversight of the Executive. While on one end of the spectrum, Sindh Assembly performed better than its other counterparts in legislative activity, it witnessed the greatest delay in formation of Standing Committees. There was no Standing Committee in Sindh Assembly for 10 out of the total 12 months of the first Parliamentary Year. The process of formation of Standing Committees was also delayed in the Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assemblies by 7 months while the Balochistan Assembly formed its Standing Committees after a delay of 8 months. Importantly, even after a delay of 8 months, the Balochistan Assembly only formed the Finance Committee and the House and Library Committee which are not related to any Ministry and do not have an impact on Oversight done by the Legislature. Not only did the Balochistan Assembly fail to form the all important Public Accounts Committee in the first Parliamentary Year of the current House, but also, the entire 5-year term of the previous Balochistan Assembly went without the formation of any Standing Committees.

Importantly, under rule 200 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, members of the Standing Committees need to be elected within 30 days of the ascertainment of Leader of the House. A similar rule needs to be introduced in the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assemblies so that the inordinate delay can be avoided.

According to the PILDAT Public Opinion Poll2, the citizens of Balochistan and Punjab were satisfied by the Oversight carried out by their Provincial Assemblies as both the Legislatures bagged a positive NPR for this parameter with Balochistan at +23% and Punjab at +2%. Both Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assemblies, however, scored a negative NPR on the Oversight with Sindh at -40%, understandably due to the 10-month delay in formation of the Committees and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at -48%.

It is also important to note that none of the Provincial Assemblies adopted any major reforms to improve the performance of the Standing Committees. Hence, except for the Standing Committees of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly (Under Rule 152 (2) of its Rules of Procedure), the Standing Committees of the three other Provincial Assemblies did not have suo moto powers to take cognizance of any matter related to their area of work. Furthermore, during the first Parliamentary Year it was observed for all the Provincial Assemblies that important legislation was generally not referred to the relevant Standing Committee which meant that consensus could not be evolved amongst different parties of the House on the matter, leading to hasty deliberations often resulting in walkouts by the Opposition.

Public Opinion surveys during 2013 showed that majority of Pakistanis felt there were four most critical issues that the country was facing - Energy, Inflation, Unemployment and Terrorism. An analysis of the Assemblies’ output for the first Parliamentary Year reveals that the Provincial Legislatures failed to not only contribute constructively to policies to deal with these issues, but did not, in some cases, debate upon these issues even once during the year. This showed varying degrees of the lack of success on the part of the legislators in effectively representing the issues of those who had elected them.

For example, during the first Parliamentary Year, the energy crisis was discussed only once in the Punjab Assembly when during the 6th Session, the Chief Minister Mr. Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, MPA, made a 37-minute long policy statement on the steps being taken by the Provincial Government to curb the electricity crisis. Although the Punjab Assembly did not once debate the rising rate of inflation or debated a policy to deal with it, it passed the Punjab Minimum Wages for Unskilled Workers (Amendment) Act 2013 which increased the minimum wage to Rs. 10,000/- giving some respite to the under- privileged section of the society. Apart from repeated Calling Attention Notices brought forward on law and order incidents across the Province, and Resolutions condemning terrorist activities, such as the attack on Civil Courts in Islamabad, the Assembly could not develop any policy on how to deal with the problem of terrorism. Similar was the case with the issue of unemployment which was not even debated once in the Assembly.

 
 


The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly passed key pieces of legislation to deal with the insurgence of terrorist activities including the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Explosive Substance Act, 2013 and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Surrender of Illicit Arms Act, 2014 aimed at administering greater control over the ammunition present in the Province. The energy crisis was also hotly debated in the Assembly as it passed multiple Resolutions calling upon the Federal Government to provide electricity to the province from the recently completed Khankhwar and Bukairkhwar dams and also to award oil and gas contracts to local companies instead of foreign ones. The Assembly also passed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organization (Amendment) Act, 2014 which called for transparent appointments in the organization to increase its productivity. However, rising unemployment and inflation were not discussed even once by the Assembly during the first Parliamentary Year.

Members of the Balochistan Assembly proactively debated the energy crisis crippling the province as Resolutions were passed demanding the Federal Government to improve the condition of gas and electricity supply in the Province. For example, the Assembly took active notice of the 70 – 80 MW of electricity provided by the Habibullah Coastal Power Plant against the promised 124 MW, the delay in construction of Mangi and Helak dams, and the restoration of Quetta Thermal Power Supply station. Rising unemployment also figured prominently in the Assembly’s deliberations, as it resolved to fix an 80% job quota for Baloch residents in the Riko Dek Project and 70% job quota for youth of the Hub city while granting NOC to any private company or banks to operate in the area. However, the Assembly could not contribute to any exhaustive plan to deal with incidents of sectarian and other kind of terrorism across the Province. The only exception was the passage of the Balochistan Terrorism Victims and their Rehabilitation Act, 2014 which aimed to improve the conditions of those who had fallen prey to terrorist activities. Similarly, except for an Adjournment Motion taking notice of the increasing prices of basic commodities, which was discussed for a total of 47-minutes in the Assembly, no other deliberation took place on the issue.

The Sindh Assembly, during its first Parliamentary Year, debated the energy shortage only once during the introduction of an Adjournment Motion on the increased duration of unannounced load shedding in Karachi which was discussed for only 44-minutes. Apart from passing a Resolution calling upon the Federal Government to reverse the increase in the petroleum prices, the Assembly did not debate upon the issue of rising inflation in the prices of basic commodities. The Legislature discussed the ongoing operation in Karachi through a Calling Attention Notice only once during the first Parliamentary Year. Apart from that, the Assembly passed one related Bill, i.e., the Sindh Witness Protection Act, 2013 to improve the security infrastructure of the province. Rising unemployment could not make it to the Assembly’s agenda as the members of the Assembly failed to debate the issue.

Working Hours of the Provincial Assemblies
Among the four Provincial Assemblies, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assembly met for the most Working Hours totalling at 243 hours and 22 minutes (at an average of 3.38 hours for each Working Day) for the first Parliamentary Year whereas those for the Balochistan Assembly were the lowest at 142 hours and 38 minutes (at an average of 2.69 hours for each Working Day). The Provincial Assembly of Sindh met for a total of 174 hours and 34 minutes (at an average of 3.13 hours for each Working Day) and the Provincial Assembly of Punjab for a total of 213 hours and 32 minutes (at an average of 3.05 hours per Working Day).

However, the total time clocked by Assemblies is rendered unsubstantial when compared to total Working Hours of Legislatures across the World. In comparison with the average working hours of 3 hours across Pakistan’s Provincial Legislatures, the Scottish Parliament meets for an average of 5 hours and 30 minutes per each of its sitting.

 
 


Working Days of the Assemblies
With regards to Working Days of the Assemblies, clause 'g' of Article 127 of the Constitution of Pakistan read with Article 54 provides that Provincial Assembly shall meet for not less than 100 Working Days in each Parliamentary Year. The ‘days of meeting’ are calculated, as per the Constitution, by counting the adjournment period of up to two days in between actual sittings as Working Days. If we calculate the Working Days by discounting the two-day break in between, the Balochistan Assembly emerged as the weakest as it managed to meet for a total of 54 actual Working Days in 12 months. The highest number of actual Working Days during the first Parliamentary Year were that of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly which met for a total of 72 days. The Provincial Assembly of Punjab and Sindh met for a total of 70 and 57 Working Days respectively during the first Parliamentary Year. Similar to the comparison of Working Hours in our Legislatures, the actual Working Days of the Provincial Assemblies also pale in comparison to those of the Scottish Parliament which met for an average of 111 Working Days in a year.

Attendance of the Chief Ministers in the Provincial Assemblies
Comparing the Attendance of Chief Ministers in their respective Legislatures during the first Parliamentary Year, the attendance record of Mr. Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, MPA, Chief Minister of the Punjab, remained the weakest as he attended only 11% of total sittings of the Punjab Assembly (8 out of the total of 70). The highest attendance was for Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch, MPA, Chief Minister of Balochistan who attended 48% of the total sittings (26 out 54 sittings) followed by Syed Qaim Ali Shah, MPA, Chief Minister of Sindh who attended 47% of the total sittings (27 out of 57). Mr. Pervaiz Khattak, MPA, Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, attended 43% of the total sittings (31 out of 72).

The citizens of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were far from impressed by the attendance record of Mr. Pervaiz Khattak, as his attendance was able to garner an NPR of -44% in the Public Opinion Poll , the lowest amongst all the Chief Ministers. The highest NPR recorded was for the attendance of Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch who was able to bag an NPR of +24% followed by Mr. Shahbaz Sharif at +11% and Syed Qaim Ali Shah at -5%.

No Question Hour for Chief Ministers
Another year passed without any Provincial Legislature introducing a Chief Minister’s Question Hour. The International Parliamentary tradition of Question Hour for Leader of the House so far remains elusive for all of Pakistan’s Assemblies.

Attendance by the Leaders of the Opposition
Looking at the attendance of Leaders of the Opposition in these Legislatures, in comparison, the highest attendance was for the Leader of the Opposition of the Sindh Assembly who attended 65% (37 out of 57 sittings) of the total sittings of the Assembly in the first Parliamentary Year. This included the 28 times Mr. Faisal Sabazwari, MPA, MQM attended the Assembly as Leader of the Opposition. However, towards the close of the first Parliamentary Year, MQM decided to sit in the Government benches leaving the seat of Leader of the Opposition vacant. He was replaced by Mr. Shehryar Khan Mahar, MPA, PML-F in the 12th session who attended a total of 9 sittings as the Opposition Leader. The lowest attendance was for the Leader of the Opposition of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, at 23 out of the total of 72 sittings (32 %) of the Assembly. The total of 23 reflects the cumulative sittings for both Mr. Mehtab Khan Abbasi, PML-N who was later appointed the Governor for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on April 15, 2014 and for Maulana Lutfur Rehman, MPA, JUI-F who was elected as Leader of the Opposition after Mr. Abbasi. Leader of the Opposition of the Punjab Assembly, Mian Mehmood ur Rashid, MPA, PTI, was present for 40 out of the 70 sittings (57 %) of the Assembly during the first Parliamentary Year and Leader of the Opposition of the Balochistan Assembly, Maulana Abdul Wasay, MPA, JUI – F attended 54% (29 out of 54) of the total sittings.

 
 


Parliamentary Calendar
Unfortunately, the Provincial Assemblies failed yet again to organize their activities around a previously determined and published Parliamentary Calendar. This is in complete contrast to model parliamentary practices which are followed internationally. A Parliamentary Calendar is made not only to better organize the activities of a Legislature but also to ensure that the Assembly is in session around the year and in case of an unforeseen crisis, a special session can be summoned. The Calendar greatly helps not only the members of the Assembly but also the media, members of the civil society, and all those individuals who wish to engage with the Assembly business in organizing their activities. Therefore, developed legislatures around the world not only develop Parliamentary Calendars before the start of a Parliamentary Year but also make it public. For example, the Scottish Parliament follows a set Parliamentary Calendar with defined recesses such as a summer break, a Christmas break, etc.

Budget Sessions
Even though no substantial reform was introduced in increasing the duration of the budget discussions in Pakistan’s Provincial Legislatures, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly took the lead in terms of duration of Budget Session with 35 hours spread over a period of 9 actual Working Days. It was followed by Sindh Assembly which met for a total of 32 hours spread over a period of 7 actual Working Days to approve the Sindh Finance Bill, 2013. The Punjab Assembly took the third highest hours for its Budget Session which lasted for 21 hours and 42 minutes spread over 7 actual Working Days. The lowest number of days recorded for any Provincial Legislature pertaining to the Budget Session was for the Balochistan Assembly which met for a total of 19 hours over 6 actual Working Days to approve the Budget.

A commendable initiative by Sindh Assembly – Quarterly Post-budget review
A commendable initiative was undertaken by the Provincial Assembly of Sindh as it amended its Rules of Business after nearly 40 years to introduce a quarterly post-Budget review of the yearly finances of the Provincial Government. However, this provision was made operational only once during the 1st Parliamentary Year as the Assembly held a post-Budget review discussion during its 12th Session to take account of the receipts of the Province, current revenue expenditure, current capital expenditure, and development expenditure of the Sindh Government.

Except for this reform by the Provincial Assembly of Sindh, no major reform was introduced by the Provincial Legislatures in the Budget process. Control of the Purse Strings is one of the most crucial powers of any Legislature. As representative of the people, Legislatures are the appropriate place to ensure that the Budget best matches the needs of the populace with available resources. Such an exercise demands detailed engagement of the Legislatures with the Budget Process. However, with limited time available to scrutinize the Provincial Budgets and no adequate powers with Standing Committees to undertake in-depth review of the Provincial Budgets, year after year, Budget Sessions see mere endorsements of the Executive Budget by the Provincial Legislatures. Detailed engagement on the budget is only possible inside the Standing Committees, an exercise that most democratic countries’ Parliaments and Standing Committees perform yearly, including the neighboring India where Standing Committees in some state legislatures take 1 month to scrutinize demands for grants before the House discusses the budget as a whole. The State Legislatures in India, such as the Haryana Vidhan Sabha and the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha (States bordering Pakistan) spent an average of 60%-70% of the Assembly’s total Working Hours in deliberating upon the annual budget. Canada’s provincial legislature of Ontario offers another example, among other assemblies where Parliamentary Committees both consult the people on what should form part of the budget and submit those proposals to the Government, as well as scrutinize estimates / demands for grants of each ministry. PILDAT has been making recommendations to strengthen the Budget process in the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies of Pakistan, which include increasing the duration of the Budget process to at least 30 – 45 days and changes in the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assemblies to allow Standing Committees both power and time to review the Budget both before and after its introduction.

Lack of Availability of Legislators’ Attendance Record
The lack of availability of the legislators’ attendance record
to the public remained a major problem for all the Provincial Assemblies during the first Parliamentary Year. It must be noted that not only do the Provincial Assemblies not make the legislators’ attendance records public, but also, there is no mechanism in place for a citizen to extract these records. The fact that all the Provincial Assembly Secretariats compile a Performa for each member of the Assembly, but only use them for internal purposes denotes a complete lack of access and transparency. Interestingly, even though the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly passed a Right to Information law in 2013, the Speaker of the Assembly sent an Office Order to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Law Department to exclude the Assembly records from the information made available under the legislation. Not only is this lack of transparency exhibited by the Provincial Assemblies but also by the National Assembly. PILDAT, which has been struggling for greater transparency in Pakistan’s Legislatures, has repeatedly asked the National Assembly Secretariat to provide attendance record of individual members publicly. PILDAT finally asked for the National Assembly members’ attendance records by invoking the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002. After the request was declined by the National Assembly Secretariat, PILDAT appealed to the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Federal Ombudsman) who, after holding proceedings for the past many months, upheld PILDAT’s point of view and recommended to the National Assembly on September 30, 2013 to provide the requested attendance records. Although the National Assembly has filed an appeal against the verdict with the President of Pakistan, one should hope that better sense will prevail, and the National Assembly under the Honourable Speaker, will turn a new leaf and make the MNAs’ attendance record public. In this regard, it is important to note that daily attendance of all members of the Scottish Parliament is posted on its official website. The same can be seen in the case of Indian State Legislative Assemblies’ website such as those of the Rajasthan and Haryana Vidhan Sabha.

 
 


Websites of the Provincial Assemblies
In terms of public access and transparency, the websites of the Provincial Assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa led the way in providing information related to Assembly Business to the public. The website of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly displays vital statistics pertaining to the Legislature’s performance such as the number of Bills and Resolutions, the number of Starred and Unstarred questions posed by the members of the Assembly, the number of Adjournment Motions introduced, etc. Furthermore, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly also regularly uploads the verbatim proceedings of the Assembly in Urdu on its website. The Punjab Assembly has also continued its tradition of uploading live webcasts of its proceedings on the Assembly website. Copies of Acts enacted and Ordinances laid are also available on both the websites. Additionally, the websites of both the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly also reproduce the questions put forward by the legislators that were able to garner a reply from the relevant branches of the Executive. However, although the websites of the Sindh and Balochistan Assembly are regularly updated with regards to the Assembly Business via notifications for each sitting, the details of the proceedings compared with that of Punjab and KP Assembly Websites, are not available.

Overall, however, public access to legislative information needs to be improved across all of Pakistan’s Legislatures. The websites should make all the relevant data open by default which essentially means that there should be a proactive release of the Assembly data, it should be available in open and structured formats, and should be free of charge. Proactive data sharing gives both Legislatures and citizens access to low-cost tools for enhancing outreach, communication, monitoring and advocacy. It also strengthens non-governmental organizations, empowering them to interact with elected officials, and giving them a greater understanding of the laws and legislative actions that affect their lives. Additionally, while formats such as HTML and PDF are easily accessible for humans, they are difficult for computers to process. Providing data in structured formats, such as JSON and XML, add significant ease to access and allow more advanced analysis, especially with large amounts of information. Unnecessary limitations are created in citizen access to crucial data by providing certain information in closed formats that restrict constituents in their ability to access, search, analyze and reuse data.

 
 


Punctuality
Punctuality
or lack of it remained another important element of the working of the 4 Provincial Assemblies as none of the Assemblies could start any of its sitting on the designated time. The greatest delay was exhibited by the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab with each of its sitting delayed by an average of almost 1 hour and 57 minutes. The least delay was exhibited by the Provincial Assembly of Balochistan with each of its sitting delayed by an average of 1 hour and 24 minutes. This again is in complete contrast to model parliamentary practices followed by developed legislatures. For example, the proceedings of the Scottish Parliament start at 11:40AM sharp and are finished by 5:30 PM in the evening.

Relationship between the Treasury and the Opposition
The relationship between the Treasury and the Opposition benches remained frayed for the first Parliamentary Year as all the Legislatures witnessed numerous walkouts. This was also reflected in the negative Net Performance Rating for all four Provincial Assemblies as obtained through the Public Opinion Poll . For relations between the Provincial Government and the Opposition, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly scored the lowest NPR of -31% and the highest was for the Punjab Assembly at -7%. The Sindh Assembly and the Balochistan Assembly bagged NPRs of -14% and - 22% respectively. The greatest number of walkouts was observed in the Provincial Assembly of Punjab at 14 and the lowest for the Provincial Assembly of Sindh with 7 walkouts during the first Parliamentary Year. The Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan registered 11 and 9 walkouts respectively during the first Parliamentary Year.

 
 


References:

[1] For details, please see PILDAT’s Public Opinion Poll on the Quality of Democracy in Pakistan, June 2013 – May 2014. Can be accessed at: Public Opinion on Quality of Democracy in Pakistan

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.