7 Ordinances Laid in 337th Session of the Senate

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Highlights

  1. 2 more Senators-elect took oath
  2. The Senate met for 9 hours and 19 minutes in 3 Sittings in 337th Session
  3. Longest sitting lasted 4 hours and 15 minutes while shortest sitting lasted 1 hour 54 minutes

Summary

Two newly-elected senators, Senator M Fesal Vawda (Sindh, IND) and Senator Abdul Wasay (Balochistan JUIP), were administered oath. The Special Committee to examine the Money Bill, the Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2024 presented its recommendations to the House. Three (3) Government Bills and 6 Private Member Bills were introduced. Additionally, 7 ordinances were also laid. The House also expressed its gratitude to the President of Pakistan for his address to both the Houses assembled together on 18th April, 2024.

Working Hours

The 337th Session of the Senate met for 9 hours and 19 minutes with an average duration of 3 hours and 6 minutes per sitting. The longest sitting of the session was held on Monday April 29, 2024 when the house was adjourned after meeting for 4 hours and 15 minutes. The shortest sitting was held on Friday April 26 when the House adjourned after meeting for 1 hour and 54 minutes. The Schedule of the Sittings is given in Appendix A.

Figure 1: Working Hours

Agenda of the Session

75.19% agenda items were disposed of during the session.

Figure 2: Agenda Items Left over

Quorum

Quorum was not pointed out during the 337th session of the Senate.

Attendance

Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar, Leader of the House (ICT, PML-N) attended 2 or 67% sittings. Senator Syed Shibli Faraz, (KP, PTI) who was declared Leader of the Opposition in the Senate on April 22, 2024[1] attended all 3 or 100% sittings. On average, Sixty-five (65) Senators were recorded as present during the session.

Figure 3: Attendance

Top 5 Vocal Senators

Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar, (Punjab, PML-N) Federal Minister for Law and Justice, was the most vocal Senator during the Session with a recorded talk time of 35 minutes. He was followed by Senator Syed Shibli Faraz, (KP, PTI) Leader of the Opposition, who spoke for 28 minutes. Senator Saifullah Abro, (Sindh, PTI) spoke for 27 minutes. Senator Manzoor Ahmed, (Balochistan, BAP) spoke for 26 minutes. Senator Jan Muhammad, (Balochsitan, NP) spoke for 25 minutes.

Figure 4: Top 5 Vocal Senators

Legislation

One Government Bill was passed during the session. Additionally, 3 Government Bills and 6 Private Members Bills were introduced during the session.

Figure 5: Legislation

Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar, (ICT, PML-N) laid the Tax Laws (Amendment) Act, 2024, which aimed to resolve a large number of pending appeals before tax authorities. The bill targets delays caused by issues like bench constitution, case fixation, and disposal, with Rs 2 trillion in revenue currently tied up in Appellate Tribunals. It was adopted by the Senate on April 29, 2024 [2] and received assent by the President on May 03, 2024.

Ordinances

Seven (7) ordinances were laid during the session:

  1. The Establishment of Telecommunication Appellate Tribunal Ordinance, 2023. (Ordinance No. VIII of 2023). The ordinance determined that tribunal shall entertain appeals arising out of the decisions passed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority in exercise of its powers under the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act, 1996 and Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. The establishment of this Tribunal shall help to lessen the burden of the High Courts with regard to adjudication of technical matters.

  2. The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023. (Ordinance No. VI of 2023) proposed an amendment in Section 4620 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) which was required to be made by which cognizance of the offence (electricity theft) may be taken by police once information of such offence is provided to the police in writing by a duly authorized officer of the Government or by an officer of an equivalent grade of distribution licensee.

  3. The Privatization Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023. (Ordinance No. VII of 2023) aimed to empower the tribunal with exclusive power to adjudicate upon all matters arising out of the Ordinances. The Tribunal shall have the power of Civil Court and the order of the Tribunal may be assailed within 60 days of the date of the decision of the Tribunal before the Supreme Court. The amendment in Ordinance will ensure timely resolution of privatization related disputes, thus resulting into expeditions closure of the privatization transactions and meeting the mandate set forth in the Ordinance.

  4. The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023. (Ordinance No. II of 2023) aimed that the PBC Board deicide in the appointment of Director General, PBC. The Federal Government shall appoint Director General on the recommendation of the Board.

  5. The Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023. (Ordinance No. Ill of 2023) proposed that appendments may be promulgated in Pakistan National Shipping Corporation Ordinance, 1979 for smooth running of official business of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation, Karachi.

  6. The Pakistan Postal Services Management Board (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023. (Ordinance No. IV of 2023) proposed that amendments may be promulgated in Pakistan Postal Services Management Board Ordinance, 2002 for smooth running of official business of Pakistan Post Office Department.

  7. The National Highway Authority (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023. (Ordinance No. V of 2023) proposed that amendments may be promulgated in NHA Act, 1991 for smooth running of official business of National Highway Authority (NHA).

Political and Economic situation in the Country

The newly appointed Opposition Leader, Senator Syed Shibli Faraz, (KP, PTI) raised concerns about the legitimacy of the current Assemblies and called for investigation into discrepancies found in Form-45 and Form-47 in the 2024 General Election. He pointed out that the 2024 General Election was not held within the Constitutional deadline of 90 days after the dissolution of Provincial Assemblies. He highlighted that the PTI was unfairly deprived of its election symbol and candidates were assigned “ridiculous and confusing symbols” like brinjal and pumpkin. Regarding the incomplete formation of the Senate due to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) failure to conduct elections for 11 seats of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, Senator Faraz emphasized that proceeding with Senate elections with an incomplete House constituted a serious violation of the Constitution.”[3]

In response, Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar (ICT, PML-N), Leader of the House, emphasized the need to solve Pakistan’s problems together. Senator Dar said it was possible if all pitched in. “Let’s forget the past,” he suggested, urging everyone to stop blaming each other and stick to the truth. He highlighted that the government and opposition should work together on important issues such as privatization, energy sector reforms, and others, especially within standing committees. Responding to claims of cheating in elections, Senator Dar asked why elections were fair in KP but not in other province.

Senator Anwaarul Haq Kakar (Balochistan, IND), responded to the opposition leader’s remarks about the election delay. He acknowledged that the 90-day limit was indeed a constitutional requirement, but he also emphasized the importance of conducting a census every ten years, which was also mandated by the Constitution. Senator Kakar explained that while the caretaker government had no intention of prolonging its tenure, it was necessary to conduct fresh delimitation, which was a compelling obligation.[4]

The House also discussed the President’s speech, praising President Zardari’s address to the joint session of the Parliament, which marked the beginning of the parliamentary year. Senator Sherry Rehman (Sindh, PPPP) echoed the president’s call for turning a new page in history to effectively address national challenges. She emphasized the importance of welcoming President Zardari’s address, where he urged all political leaders to engage in dialogue and strive for a much-needed political reset. Highlighting the president’s emphasis on political dialogue, unity, and ending polarization for the country’s betterment, she stressed that this approach is crucial in navigating through these challenging circumstances.[5]

Report of the Committee on the proposals for making recommendations on the Money Bill

As the Standing Committee on Finance had not been established yet, the Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill 2024 was forwarded to a Special Committee made by the Senate Chairman on April 25, 2024. The three-member committee, consisting of Federal Law Minister, Senator Syed Ali Zafar (Punjab, PTI), and Senator Farooq Hamid Naek (Sindh, PPPP) examined the bill. The Special Committee presented the report and approved the Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2024, with amendments aimed at expediting the resolution of tax disputes totaling Rs 2.7 trillion pending in courts. The Special Committee was chaired by Senator Farooq Hamid Naek (Sindh, PPPP). Senator Farooq Hamid Naek recommended empowering the Director General Law to appoint in-house legal counsel, reducing reliance on external lawyers to avoid case delays. Furthermore, amendments to the bill included shortening the appeal period before the High Court from ninety (90) to thirty (30) days and restricting Commissioner Appeal jurisdiction to cases involving tax values up to 10 million rupees, with appeals for higher assessments directed to Appellate Tribunals. Additionally, the committee dismissed the written objections submitted by Senator Ali Zafar (Punjab, PTI). Following discussions, the Special Committee passed the Money Bill with the proposed amendments.[6]

Time consumed on Discussion of Policy Issues

The quality of the time used during the 337th Senate session can be gauged by analysing the time consumed on discussing key issues of democratic governance. The time dedicated to discussion on policy issues was 2 hours and 25 minutes. The maximum time consumed in discussion was on the political and economic situation in the country for 49 minutes.

It must be noted that PILDAT has classified that a policy issue is such that involves any recommendation on devising a policy. Any discussion on an issue that does not go beyond mere criticism or highlighting a concern does not fall into policy issue and is treated as discussion or time spent on non-policy issues.

References

  1. Nadir Guramani. “Shibli Faraz appointed Senate opposition leader” Dawn online, April 22, 2024, accessed May, 04, 2024. https://www.dawn.com/news/1829005.

  2. Sohail Sarfraz & Zaheer Abbasi, “Senate body passes Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2024 with some amendments” Business Recorder online, April 29, 2024, accessed May 4, 2024. https://www.brecorder.com/news/40301001/senate-body-passes-tax-laws-amendment-bill-2024-with-some-amendments.

  3. Sardar Sikander Shaheen, “Senate session: Opposition demands Gilani issue production order of Ejaz Chaudhary” Business Recorder online, April 26, 2024, accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.brecorder.com/news/40300360.

  4. Iftikhar A. Khan, “Hot and cold Senate session sees barbs, offers of support” Dawn online, April 26, 2024, accessed May 06, 2024. https://www.dawn.com/news/1829678.

  5. “Sherry urges parties to welcome Zardari’s call for unity” The Express Tribune online, April 27, 2024, accessed May 06, 2024. https://tribune.com.pk/story/2464104/sherry-urges-parties-to-welcome-zardaris-call-for-unity.

  6. “Senate body passes Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2024 with some amendments” Business Recorder online, April 30, 2024, accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.brecorder.com/news/40301001/senate-body-passes-tax-laws-amendment-bill-2024-with-some-amendments.