Absence of Ministers during 5th Session of National Assembly

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Highlights

  1. Formation of Standing Committees remains pending
  2. 40.64% agenda items left over in the Session
  3. Session lasted 16 hours and 04 minutes over 5 sittings

Highlights of the Session

During the 5th Session that spanned over 5 sittings, two resolutions were adopted and one (1) ordinance was laid. The session was called to debate on the President’s address to Parliament on which the House spent seven (7) hours of debate. No Government or Private Member Bill was introduced or passed during the Session. Speaker National Assembly suspended Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema, MNA (NA-165 Bahawalpur-II, Punjab, PML) from the service of the Assembly for the remainder of the session on charges of eroding the sanctity of the House as Mr. Cheema had used abusive language against Ms. Zartaj Gul, MNA (NA-185 D.G Khan-II, Punjab, SIC). The suspension was unanimously adopted by the House.[1] The House also expressed serious concern over the absence of Ministers during calling attention notices.[2]

Working Hours

The 5th Session of the 16th National Assembly was convened on May 13, 2024 and was prorogued on May 17, 2024. The sittings were held for 16 hours and 04 minutes with an average time of 3 hours and 12 minutes per sitting. The longest sitting of the session was held on Tuesday, May 14 when the House was adjourned after meeting for 5 hours and 22 minutes. The shortest sitting was held on Friday, May 17, 2024 when the House was adjourned after meeting for only 18 minutes. The Schedule of the Sittings is given in Appendix A.

Figure 1: Working Hours

Agenda Items Left Over

40.64% agenda items were left over during the 5th Session. These included issues regarding various calling attention notices by MNAs. Details of the agenda items left over are given in Appendix B.

Figure 2: Agenda Items Left Over

Quorum

Quorum was not pointed out during the session.

Attendance

On average, 219 (65%) MNAs were recorded as present in the session.

Mr. Omar Ayub Khan, MNA (NA-18 Haripur, KP, Independent), Leader of the of the Opposition, attended 3 or 60% out of 5 sittings during the 5th Session. Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, MNA (NA-123 Lahore, Punjab, PML-N) did not attend a single sitting during the 5th Session.

Figure 3: Attendance

Top 5 Vocal MNAs

Mr. Omar Ayub Khan, MNA (NA-18 Haripur, KP, Independent), was the most vocal MNA during the 5th session, with a recorded talk time of 1 hour and 38 minutes. He was followed by Khawaja Muhammad Asif, MNA (NA-71 Sialkot-II, Punjab, PML-N) who spoke for 1 hour 03 minutes. Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, MNA (NA-197 Larkana-I, Sindh, PPPP) spoke for 48 minutes during the 5th Session. Dr. Muhammad Farooq Sattar, MNA (NA-244 Karachi West-I, Sindh, MQMP) spoke for 34 minutes. Mr. Abdul Qadir Patel, MNA (NA-243 Karachi Keamari-II, Sindh, PPPP) spoke for 33 minutes.

Figure 4: Top 5 Vocal MNAs

Legislation

No Government or Private Member bill was introduced or passed during the Session.

Figure 5: Legislation

Ordinances

One (1) ordinance was laid during the 5th Session of National Assembly.

Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada, MNA (NA-164 Bahawalpur-I, Punjab, PML-N) moved to lay The Cannabis Control and Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2024 (Ord. No. IV of 2024) aimed at establishing a regulatory framework to generate government revenue through taxation and to promote the development of a supply chain for industrial and medicinal cannabis.

Resolutions

Two (2) Resolution were adopted during the Session which were moved to extend the period of two ordinances.

Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada, MNA (NA-164 Bahawalpur-I, Punjab, PML-N) moved the resolution to extend the Cannabis Control and Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2024 (No. IV of 2024) for a further period of one hundred and twenty days w.e.f. June 14, 2024.

Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar, Federal Minister for Law and Justice (Punjab, PML-N), moved to extend the Apostille Ordinance, 2024 (No. I of 2024) for a further period of one hundred and twenty days w.e.f. May 25, 2024.

Motion

The National Assembly adopted two motions. Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada, MNA (NA-164 Bahawalpur-I, Punjab, PML-N) moved the motion that the Special Committee on Gender Mainstreaming including members from both the Houses be constituted. The Special Committee shall make recommendations to the National Assembly on matters pertaining to women empowerment. The National Assembly Secretariat shall extend its Secretarial and administrative support to the Committee. The House adopted the Motion on May 13, 2024.

Syed Naveed Qamar, MNA (NA-221 Tando Muhammad Khan, Sindh, PPPP) moved the motion that all the Standing Committees of the National Assembly be elected and the Honourable Speaker be authorized to nominate Members to the Standing Committees, on the recommendations of Parliamentary Party Heads, respectively. The Honourable Speaker may make such changes in the composition of the Standing Committees, as and when he may deem fit. The motion was adopted by the House on 17 May, 2024.[3]

Reports laid before the National Assembly

  1. Senator Musadik Masood Malik, (Punjab, PML-N), Minister for Petroleum, moved to lay the Report 1st Biannual Monitoring on the Implementation of the 7th NFC Award (July – December, 2021)
  2. Senator Muhammad Aurangzeb Punjab, PML-N), Minister for Finance and Revenue, moved to lay the Mid-Year Budget Review Report for the Financial Year 2023-24, the Fiscal Policy Statement January, 2024, the Debt Policy Statement January, 2024, and the Performance Monitoring Report for the Financial Year 2022-23, Appropriation Accounts of the Government of Pakistan for the Financial year 2020 – 21 and Audit Reports of the Auditor-General of Pakistan relating to the Accounts of the Federation for the Audit Year, 2021-22 (Phase-II) and the Reports of the Auditor-General of Pakistan relating to the Accounts of the Federation for the Audit Year, 2022-23.[4]

Analysis

The House expressed serious concern over the absence of Ministers during calling attention notices.

Sardar Nabil Ahmed Gabol, MNA (NA-239 Karachi South-I, Sindh, PPPP), in the 2nd sitting of the session, remarked that “not a single Federal Minister is present in the house during calling attention notices. How can proceedings continue if this situation persists? There’s no one here to answer the questions.” He urged the Speaker to give his ruling on the matter of Ministers’ non-availability during calling attention notices.

Mr. Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani, MNA, (NA-190 Jacobabad, Sindh, PPPP) expressed disappointment over the absence of Ministers and Secretaries during the session. He asserted that this lack of presence was unacceptable and emphasized the importance of the Government and Ministers being actively involved in their responsibilities.

On May 16, 2024, the question-and-answer session was deferred due to the unavailability of the Minister. Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, MNA (NA-120 Lahore, Punjab, PML-N), also voiced concern regarding the absence of Ministers and Secretaries.[5]

Debate on the President’s Address to Parliament

The National Assembly discussed the President’s speech to Parliament. The motion was moved by Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar, Federal Minister for Law and Justice, (Punjab, PML-N) on April 24, 2024.

Ms. Shagufta Jumani MNA (Reserved seat for Women, Sindh, PPPP) praised President Asif Ali Zardari’s commitment to reconciliation and noted his historic decision to transfer powers to the Parliament.

Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, MNA (NA-197 Larkana-I, Sindh, PPPP) stressed the need for political dialogue to tackle the country’s issues. He praised President Asif Ali Zardari’s efforts in addressing concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and criticized the former caretaker government for wheat import issues.

Various other speakers highlighted the importance of development in backward areas, reconciliation in politics, education promotion, Karachi’s issues, and relief for farmers.

Syeda Shehla Raza, MNA (Reserved seat for Women, Sindh, PPPP) reiterated the Pakistan People’s Party’s stance on reconciliation and consensus-building to move the country forward, emphasizing its role in strengthening parliamentary democracy.

Other speakers, including Mr. Nisar Ahmad MNA (NA-100, Faisalabad-VI, Punjab, SIC), criticized the President’s speech and questioned why the speech was delivered in English instead of Urdu. He also questioned why the President did not address the issues facing Karachi, particularly the rising street crime.

Ms. Zartaj Gul MNA (NA-185, D.G.Khan-II, Punjab, SIC) said that although the President called for tolerance in his speech, such tolerance was lacking, especially towards female politicians as all PTI women politicians faced harassment and character assassination during the campaign of GE 2024.

Sardar Muhammad Yousaf MNA (NA-14, Mansehra-I, KP, PML-N) questioned why MNAs, instead of upholding their oath to serve the public, uphold the integrity of Pakistan and to focus on policy issues, were devoting their time to criticize each other in the House.

Nawabzada Iftikhar Shah MNA (NA-176, Muzaffargarh-II, Punjab, PPPP) said that the President’s speech was a positive sign for democracy and highlighted that President Zardari was the first civilian president to be elected for a second term and has called for reconciliation.

Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi MNA (NA-150, Multan-III, Punjab, SIC) said that while the President emphasized that the rule of law should be the top priority, this was not evident in practice by the Government. His leader, Mr. Imran Khan was imprisoned for advocating the rule of law.

Ms. Shaishta Khan, MNA (Reserve seat for women, KP, PML-N) pointed out that the opposition was raising concerns about Forms 45 and 47 but questioned why they did not see these forms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in General election 2024.

Mr. Khursheed Ahmed Junejo MNA, (NA-196 Kamber Shahdadkot-I, Sindh, PPPP) congratulated the President on being re-elected for a second term and emphasized the need for reconciliation for the betterment of Pakistan as highlighted in the President’s speech.

Mr. Omar Ayub Khan, MNA (NA-18 Haripur, KP, Independent), Leader of the Opposition, alleged that the President’s address to the Parliament appeared to be a copy-paste job from previous speech.[6]

Time consumed on discussion of Policy Issues during 5th Session

The quality of the time used during the National Assembly 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 9 hours and 16 minutes. The maximum time was consumed in discussion on the President’s address to the Parliament which lasted 7 hour and 48 minutes.[7]

References

  1. NA suspends PML-Q’s Tariq Bashir Cheema for current session over invective against PTI’s Zartaj Gul,” Dawn online, May 17, 2024, accessed May 21, 2023. https://www.dawn.com/news/1834051.

  2. “National Assembly Secretariat (5th SESSION 2024)” May 16, 2024, accessed May 21, 2024. https://na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/664b319de54ec_966.pdf.

  3. “National Assembly Secretariat (5th SESSION 2024)” May 17, 2024, accessed May 21, 2024. https://na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/664b321d277e5_361.pdf.

  4. “FATA, PATA regions: No law under study to grant tax relief: Aurangzeb” Business Recorder online, May 17, 2024, accessed May 21, 2024. https://www.brecorder.com/news/40303887.

  5. “National Assembly Secretariat (5th SESSION 2024)” May 16, 2024, accessed May 21, 2024. https://na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/664b319de54ec_966.pdf.

  6. “NA continues discussion on President’s address” Radio Pakistan, May 15, 2024, accessed May 21, 2024. https://www.radio.gov.pk/15-05-2024/na-continues-discussion-on-presidents-address-to-joint-setting.

  7. It must be noted that PILDAT has classified that a policy issue is such that involves any legislation or a recommendation on devising a policy.