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

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In this Issue

The National Assembly of Pakistan

The Senate of Pakistan

The Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The Provincial Assembly of the Punjab



The National Assembly of Pakistan

A Long Gap between National Assembly Sessions Affects Legislation


The Lower House will witness no business for 73 consecutive days

Five laws that originated in the Senate of Pakistan have lapsed due to the gap of 73 days between the sessions of the National Assembly of Pakistan. The 24th session of the National Assembly prorogued on August 13, 2015, and the 25th is scheduled to begin on October 26, 2015, leaving a long gap of 73 days. Such a long gap is causing difficulties in the discussion and passage of crucial legislation. Five very important bills that have lapsed are the Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2015; the Anti-Honour Killing Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2015; the Privatisation Commission (Second Amendment) Bill 2015; the Torture, Custodial Death and Custodial Rape (Prevention and Punishment) Bill 2015, and the Gas Theft Control and Recovery Bill 2014.1

PTI MNAs attempted to requisition the session to an earlier date, however a minimum 86 signatures are needed to requisition. There are 33 PTI legislators in the lower House and they were not able to muster the required support from PPPP MNAs.

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. After all, legislators are fully aware that as per the Rules of Procedure, the Government requires laws to be approved by the Lower House within 90 days of being drafted.

Legislators Submit Bill to Merge FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

On September 09, 2015, two MNAs from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas – FATA, Mr. Shah Jee Gul Afridi, MNA (NA-45. FATA, IND) and Mr. Sajid Hussain Turi, MNA (NA-37, FATA, IND) submitted the 22nd Amendment Bill that seeks changes in Articles 1, 246 and 247 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, that would effectively merge the FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In Article 1, the proposed law seeks to remove FATA from the list of “territories” of Pakistan. The bill proposes adding the areas of FATA to the clause (b) of Article 246, to make all of the areas part of PATA. The bill also proposes changing Article 247 to take the Executive Authority from the Federation and hand it over to the province.

PILDAT notes that under Article 247 (6) of the Constitution of Pakistan, “The President may, at any time, by Order, direct that the whole or any part of a tribal area shall cease to be Tribal Area… Provided that before making any Order under this clause, the President shall ascertain, in such manner that he considers appropriate, the views of the people of the Tribal Area concerned, as represented in Tribal Jirga.”2

It is the view of PILDAT that no decision on FATA must be made without taking into account the views of the citizens of FATA, whether through consultation with the Tribal Jirga or through a referendum orchestrated by the President of Pakistan. 2 out of the 11 MNAs from FATA have submitted this submitted this bill. In the subsequent National Assembly session we shall see the views of the remaining 9 MNAs on such a radical constitutional amendment.



THE SENATE OF PAKISTAN

Senate Passes Resolution for Legislation to Review Suo Moto Decisions

A resolution, moved by Senator Farhatullah Babar, PPPP, unanimously passed on September 14, 2015, demands that the Government enact legislation so as to provide the right to revise decisions taken in suo moto cases by the Supreme Court. It is believed that such legislation would streamline the suo moto procedure and would also provide for a legal regulation mechanism for suo moto decisions. The Senator stated that suo moto powers must “be guided by law and not by populism. This calls for regulating the use of suo moto powers purely under legislation.”3

Senate Committee Passes NUMS Bill

The Senate Committee on Defence passed the National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS) Bill on September 28, 2015. This increases the powers of the army-run medical university by allowing it to set the standards of medical education in army run educational institutions. Committee Members felt that this action may conflict with the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), the Federal regulatory body of medical education. During the Committee meeting, Senator Farhatullah Babar suggested adding a clause, which will oblige NUMS to follow PMDC laws and regulations. However his suggestion was not accepted, as it would mean that the bill would be referred back to the National Assembly.

Senator Babar argued during the Committee meeting, “The space of the civilian institutions has already shrunk shockingly and disturbingly. It would be most unfortunate if we… continue to abdicate legitimate civilian space in matters of governance and regulation to the military authorities.”4 On October 09, 2015, the Upper House formally passed the NUMS Bill 2015.


Civil-Military Disconnect Pondered on International Day of Democracy

The Honorable Members of Senate marked International Day of Democracy on September 15, 2015; the first time democracy day was commemorated in the Senate. On this occasion, Senator Farhatullah Babar moved an adjournment motion seeking discussion on a statement given by Senator Mushahidullah Khan that ‘some elements’ in the security establishment had been involved in engineering PTI’s long march in 2014. Senator Babar stated that there was disconnect in civil-military relations. While Senator Rabbani denied the adjournment motion, it did spark a debate on the alleged disconnect between the civilian and military regimes.

During an enthusiastic debate, Senators emphasized upon the need for the strengthening of democracy. A number of Senators conceded that there is a disconnect between civil-military relations. The Chairman Senate stated that there exists a “disequilibrium in civil-military relations” where there is a lack of confidence amongst the masses with the civilian Government.

PILDAT whole-heartedly supports the Honorable Chairman Senate’s view that the public trust in democratic institutions must continue to increase, as the people are the safeguards of the democracy in their country. Additionally, it is believed that any difference of opinion between the civil and military regimes during these times of war should be resolved through existing forums for civil-military leadership’s coordination, such as the National Security Committee.


Implication of Dr. Asim Hussain

During a debate on September 14, 2015, PPPP Senators heavily criticized the PML-N-led Government for “selective accountability”, in reference to Dr. Asim Hussain’s arrest. Senator Raza Rabbani, Chairman Senate, requested two Senators to postpone their agenda items so that the Upper House may discuss the issue under what he termed “matters of public importance.” During the debate, the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan drew the attention of the House towards the recent arrest of former Federal Minister, Dr. Asim Hussain, and criticised the Government for implicating him on terrorism charges. Senator Ahsan alleged that Dr. Asim was being tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act only to allow the Rangers to obtain his 90-day remand. PPPP Senators, during the debate, questioned why Dr. Asim Hussain was being implicated while no action was being taken against those involved in the Nandipur power project.


Foreign Policy must be linked with Parliament

Opposition Senators staged a walkout from the Senate on September 17, 2015, in protest during a briefing given by Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz prior to the Prime Minister’s visit to the US to represent Pakistan at the UN General Assembly.

Mr. Aziz stated in his briefing that the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would present Pakistan’s position before the General Assembly as per the masses’ wishes and a dossier was also ready regarding the Indian involvement in Pakistan. Mr. Aziz said Pakistan would, among other matters, highlight the matter of Kashmir.

Senators from the Opposition were unhappy with the briefing stating that it lacked in substance. They were of the opinion that Pakistan’s foreign policy decisions must be made by the Parliament, who can truly represent the views of the people as opposed to non-elected officials. In this regard, PILDAT is in support of the view of Opposition Members of Senate, that Pakistan must have a Foreign Minister who can be the link between the Parliament and the Government in determining foreign affairs.


PROVINCIAL ASSEMBLY OF KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA

RTI Law Revised At Last

Mr. Shaukat Yousafzai, MPA, (PK-02, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI) presented the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2015 during a sitting on September 07, 2015. The RTI Amendment Bill revoked the amendment passed in June 2015 that had exempted the KP Assembly from the purview of the law. The Assembly passed the second RTI (Amendment) Bill 2015, withdrawing this undemocratic amendment

PILDAT welcomes this move towards transparency and accessibility; no state institution should be exempt from the RTI law, and citizens should not be denied the right to question their elected representatives


Mr. Ziaullah Khan Attends Sitting

As per Rule 65A of the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, “The Speaker, on the written request of the Member in custody … may, if deem appropriate summon the Member in custody on the charge of non-bailable offence to attend a sitting or sittings of the Assembly.”5 In exercise of the powers conferred by this Rule, the Speaker summoned Mr. Ziaullah Khan, MPA, (PK-01, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI), to attend the sitting held on September 10, 2015. The former Minister for Mines and Mineral Development had been detained since July 09, 2015 under the KP Ehtesaab Commission Act, 2015 for the misuse of billions of rupees through illegal mining.

Since he has not proven to be guilty for pilfering billions of rupees, he should be allowed to attend sittings unless he is officially charged, as he is still representing members of his constituency until he is de-seated.

Secretary Stripped of Powers by Speaker over Alleged Dispute

The Speaker of the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Asad Qaisar, removed the administrative and financial powers of the Assembly Secretary, Mr. Amanullah over an alleged dispute over recruitments. Mr. Qaisar simultaneously upgraded the Additional Secretary, Mr. Nasrullah Khan Khattak (administration), from BPS-19 to the post of secretary (administration, finance, and accounts) at BPS-20. Though the allegations cannot be verified, this action in itself is problematic in light of the N.W.F.P Manual of Secretariat Instructions, 1989. According to Rule 4, “The Secretary is the official Head of the Department and is responsible for its efficient administration and discipline.”6 Therefore, administrative powers fall within the purview of the Secretary. The creation of multiple offices devalues the office of the Secretary is contrary to the Rules by which the office is to abide.


PROVINCIAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PUNJAB

Broken Quorums and Poor Attendance

Out of the 10 sittings that took place during the 16th session of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, quorum was not met on two occasions and the Assembly had to adjourn. The Leader of the House, Mr. Shahbaz Sharif, MPA (PP-159, Punjab, PML-N), whose base of power is the Provincial Assembly, was not present for a single sitting. 182 MPAs were present on average per sitting: 49% of the membership.

Indeed, the problem of attendance is not limited to MPAs but is also prevalent amongst Government officials. In an unfortunate event, on September 02, 2015, Education Secretary, Mr. Abdul Jabbar Shaheen, was not present to attend the Question Hour during which the question about allegedly undesirable practices taking place in public schools was introduced. Initially the Education Minister, Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan, MPA, (PP-149, Punjab, PML-N), stated that the Secretary was in Jhang on official duties. However, upon the criticism from the House and a reminder that the presence of the Secretary was mandatory during Question Hour, the Secretary was summoned and appeared in the House within 15 minutes.

 

References:

2. For details please see ‘The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,’ Art. 247: http://www.na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1333523681_951.pdf

3. For details please see ‘Senate adopts resolution seeking laws to review suo moto decisions’, DAWN, September 14, 2015: http://www.dawn.com/news/1206941

4. For details please see ‘Senate committee passes NUMS bill’, DAWN, September 28, 2015: http://www.dawn.com/news/1209514

5. For details please see Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which can be accessed at: http://www.pakp.gov.pk/2013/rules-of-procedure/rules-of-procedure5/

6. For details please see ‘N.W.F.P Manual of Secretariat Instructions, 1989’ at: http://www.kpese.gov.pk/Downloads/Manual_of_Secretariat_Instructions.pdf

7. For details please see ‘Private members’ day: PA slams Indian aggression on working boundary’ Express Tribune, September 09, 2015: http://tribune.com.pk/story/953275/private-members-day-pa-slams-indian-aggression-on-working-boundary/


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