Legislature Monitor – The National and Provincial Legislatures of Pakistan – October 2015

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In this Issue

PILDAT Releases Public Opinion Poll on the Quality of Democracy

The National Assembly of Pakistan

The Senate of Pakistan

The Provincial Assembly of Balochistan

The Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The Provincial Assembly of the Punjab

The Provincial Assembly of Sindh



PILDAT Releases Public Opinion Poll on the Quality of Democracy

National Assembly Approval Rating

As part of a nationwide public opinion poll released by PILDAT on the Quality of Democracy 2014-2015, respondents were questioned on the performances of the National and Provincial Assemblies, during the second Parliamentary year. The Approval Ratings of the National Assembly and the four Provincial Assemblies on various aspects of their functions are displayed in the figures below.

Figure 1: Effectiveness of the National Assembly’s Performance (All Over Pakistan)

Figure 2: National Assembly’s Ratings

Comparative Approval Ratings of the Provincial Assemblies

Figure 3: Provincial Assemblies’ Ratings on Legislation

Figure 4: Provincial Assemblies’ Ratings on Maintaining Oversight

The KP and Balochistan Assemblies received positive Approval Ratings for the attendance of the Leaders of the House at 60% and 56%. KP is up by a significant 32 points while Balochistan’s rating has fallen by 6 points. The CMs of the Punjab and Sindh have both missed the 50% mark. CM Punjab’s Approval for attendance has fallen by 10 points to 41%, and CM Sindh’s Approval Rating has fallen by 13 points to 33%.

Figure 5: Ratings on the Chief Ministers’ Attendance

Figure 6: Relations between Provincial Governments and Opposition



The National Assembly of Pakistan

There was no session of the Lower House during the month of October 2015. The 25th session of the National Assembly of Pakistan, which was originally scheduled for October 26, 2015 has been further postponed and is scheduled to begin on November 06, 2015, leaving a gap of 83 days. The 24th session of the National Assembly had prorogued on August 13, 2015. Legislators and Government officials are fully aware that as per the Rules of Procedure, bills submitted by the Senate or vice versa must be approved within 90 days. PILDAT advises that there should not be such a long gap between the sessions of the National Assembly as it acts as an impediment to legislative work of the Parliament.

PCER Meets to Discuss Critical Issues

The sub-committee of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms (PCER) met on October 20, 2015 and reached a consensus to make mandatory the holding of Local Government elections within 120 days on the expiry of the tenure of Local Governments. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, MNA, had constituted the PCER on July 23, 2015 to evaluate shortcomings of the previous electoral process and make recommendations to hold fair and transparent elections in the aftermath of the controversial May 2013 General Elections. The PCER was supposed to make recommendations for the electoral reforms within 3 months of its formation, unfortunately over a year has passed and these recommendations have not been made. PILDAT believes that it is unacceptable that even over a year later, the Committee is clearly unable to reach a consensus on major electoral issues in light of the fact a series of national bye-elections have taken place in the meantime. In the October 20, 2015 meeting, the subcommittee failed to reach a decision on the reduction of the constitutional tenure of the National Assembly from five to four years. The members decided to refer this to the PCER for a final decision. The members of the sub-committee also discussed the matter of increasing the general seats of the National Assembly. This issue was postponed by the Committee till March 2016, when the population census is planned.



The Senate of Pakistan

The Senate of Pakistan met for its 120th session between October 05, 2015 and October 13, 2015 for a total of 7 sittings. The attendance of the Members was 54% of the total membership.1 The Senate passed four bills consisting of three amended bills and the National University of Medical Sciences Bill, 2015. Senator Raja Muhammad Zafar-ul-Haq, PML-N; Leader of the House, attended 6 sittings at 86% of the total, while Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, PPPP; Leader of the Opposition was present for 5 sittings at 71%.

The Senators enthusiastically discussed key areas of concern faced by the Pakistani public including the recent billing irregularities in the NEPRA Report, the Nandipur Scandal and the increasingly tense Indo-Pak Relations. The Opposition even staged a walkout of the Senate on October 13, 2015 over the Government’s response to alleged changes in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor route (CPEC) and the handling of the Mina stampede.

Senators Deliberate the Containment of Corruption

Corruption and lack of transparency by legislators and public office holders continues to be a major grievance for the citizens of Pakistan. This concern surfaced in the Upper House of the Parliament during a debate after the Senate Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights introduced a report on ‘Corruption in Federal Government Departments’, which proposed a plan to eliminate corruption from within Government departments. The Committee recommended the creation of an autonomous single Anti-Corruption Agency to inspect for corrupt practices in Government. The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi, PML-N, stressed the need for a mechanism whereby the common man can access Government documents with ease.

It is PILDAT’s contention that creating more laws and institutions is not as viable as strengthening existing institutions and legislations. In particular, the Government and legislators have held back on the introduction and passage of the national Right to Information Bill, which has been pending for nearly 2 years. Senator Babar remonstrated that the draft law had been finalized by the Senate Committee on Information nearly 20 months prior to the debate and has still not been tabled. Indeed, it is disgraceful that despite over a dozen Cabinet meetings since the approval of the draft law by the Senate Committee, the RTI Bill has still not been reviewed for submission to the Parliament. Both the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assemblies have passed their Right to Information laws while the Parliament delays further.

In another contribution made during this important discussion, Senator, Mir Hasil Bizenjo, NP, contended that it is wrong of legislators to ask the State for funds to develop their constituencies. Their responsibilities are to legislate and oversee the Government, so it is incorrect that they take MNA/MPA funds for development in their constituencies. PILDAT supports Senator Bizenjo’s argument that legislators should not seek to meet their vested interests in constituencies via these funds. Additionally, it is believed that the electorate must be educated that this is not the responsibility of their local MPA or MNA. 2


State Bank of Pakistan Law Amended

The Members of Senate unanimously passed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) (Amendment) Bill 2015. A new section on ‘Regulatory Powers has been introduced in the Act in order to provide explicit powers to the SBP for issuing directives, imposing and recovering penalties which are already being exercised under the Banking Companies Ordinance 1962. The role of SBP has also been strengthened by substituting the Federal Government’s approval wherever required with the approval of its Board. PILDAT believes that the passage of the bill is a positive step as a number of the practices followed by the SBP were as per the Banking Companies Ordinance 1962 and the Bank (Nationalization) Act, 1974, and have now been given legitimacy under the amended Act.



The Provincial Assembly of Balochistan

The Provincial Assembly of Balochistan met for it 21st session between October 01, 2015 and October 12, 2015 for a total of 5 sittings. Seven bills were adopted by the Assembly, of which noteworthy is the Defence Housing Authority Bill, 2015, unanimously adopted to provide for a housing authority in Quetta.


Chairpersons of Committees remain to be Formally Elected

The Provincial Assembly of Balochistan is into its third Parliamentary year and remains the only legislature in Pakistan that has still not managed to formally elect all the Chairpersons for its Standing Committees. While a number of Committees have begun to meet, 4 out of the 14 Standing Committees are still without Chairpersons. This is a major fault with the Assembly as one of the main functions of legislators is to oversee the performance of the Balochistan Government departments through Committees. PILDAT recommends that the Rules of the Assembly be amended so that it is mandatory to elect all Chairpersons within a set period of three months from the oath-taking. The Standing Committees must also be granted suo moto powers to meet and they should also, though an amendment to the rule, be empowered to call meetings without specific orders.


Balochistan Without a Speaker for Five Months


Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo has been Acting Speaker since the Resignation of Mir Jan Muhammad Jamali

The Provincial Assembly has still not filled the vacancy for its Speaker. Mir Jan Muhammad Khan Jamali, MPA, (PB-25, Balochistan, PML-N), resigned from the post five months ago on May 23, 2015, and Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo has been Acting Speaker since. Rule 10 of the Rules of Procedure state that in the event of a vacancy, a Speaker must be elected “If the Assembly is not in session, at the first meeting of the next session.”3 Unfortunately, the 19th, 20th and 21st sessions of Balochistan Assembly have come and gone and the legislature continues to violate its own rules by not filling this crucial post.



The Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The 15th session of the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has officially lasted one year as of October 2015. This long session coincides with the fact that on October 15, 2014 the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Imtiaz Shahid, MPA, (PK-39, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI) resigned from his post and one year later this post is till vacant. Over the course of the 4 sittings held in October 2015, the Assembly passed 2 bills: the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Canal and Drainage (Amendment) Bill, 2015, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Journalists Welfare Endowment Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2015. While, the KP Assembly has made great strides towards transparency and accountability, in particular by being the first legislature to pass a Right to Information law, it remains one of the three legislatures along with Sindh and Balochistan not to upload the attendance of individual members online.

KP Assembly Without a Deputy Speaker for One Year

During the third Parliamentary year, when Mr. Asad Qaiser, Speaker of the KP Assembly, has been delayed or not present for a sitting, the responsibility for chairing the session has fallen on Ms. Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli, MPA, (WR-18, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, QWP), an MPA and recently instated Minister.4 The Provincial Assembly has been without a Deputy Speaker since October 15, 2015, when Mr. Imtiaz Shahid, resigned from the post. The Assembly has completed one year without filling this post and an MPA, whose capacity in the House is limited to being an MPA, undertakes this duty. According to the Rules of Procedure of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, “the election shall be held during the same session, and if the vacancy occurs at a time when the Assembly is not in session, during the session next following.”

It can be construed that the Assembly has not appointed a Deputy Speaker as it is not obligated to do so in light of the ongoing 15th session. Although the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly may not be violating any

 

References:

1. For details please see Attendance of Members (House), Senate Website, which can be accessed at: http://www.senate.gov.pk/en/attendance.php?id=-1&catid=261&subcatid=301&cattitle=Attendance%20of%20Members

2. For details please see Hansard, Senate Website, which can be accessed at: http://www.senate.gov.pk/en/debates.php?id=-1?id=-1&catid=186&subcatid=15&cattitle=Hansard

3. For details please see the Rules of Procedure, Provincial Assembly of Balochistan which can be accessed at: http://www.pabalochistan.gov.pk/index.php/rop/rlist/en

4. For details please see ‘Aneesa Zaib first female speaker chairs KP Assembly session’, which be accessed at the Frontier Post, at http://www.thefrontierpost.com/article/324453/aneesa-zaib-first-female-speaker-chairs-kp-assembly-session


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