Senate’s 335th Farewell Session

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Highlights

  1. The Senate met for 22 hours and 57 minutes in 10 Sittings in 335th Session
  2. Average time per sitting recorded at 2 hour and 05 minutes
  3. Longest sitting lasted 3 hours and 17 minutes; shortest sitting 1 hour 18 minutes
  4. Four (4) Resolutions and seventeen (17) Private Member bills passed

Working Hours

The 335th session of the Senate began on February 19, 2024 and was prorogued on March 8, 2024. During the session spanning 19 days, 10 sittings were convened. The schedule of the sittings during the session is given in Appendix A.

The 335th Sessions of the Senate was convened for 22 hours and 57 minutes with an average time of 2 hours and 17 minutes per sitting. The longest sitting of the session was held on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 when the House was adjourned after meeting for 3 hours and 17 minutes. The shortest sitting of the session was held on March 07, 2024 when the House met for only 1 hour and 18 minutes.

The average delay in starting a sitting was 11 minutes during the session.

Agenda Items Left Over

On average 4.64% agenda items were left over during the 335th Session of the Senate.

Quorum

Quorum was not pointed out during the session.

Attendance

Senator Dr. Shahzad Waseem, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Punjab, PTI) attended 6 or 60% sittings of the 335th session. He was followed by Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar, Leader of the House (Punjab, PML-N) attended 5 or 50% sittings. On average, 57 Senators were recorded as present during the 335th session.

Top 5 Vocal Senators

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed (KP, JIP) was the most vocal Senator during the 335th session with a recorded talk time of for 1 hour and 55 minutes. He was followed by Senator Saifullah Abro (Sindh, PTI) who spoke 1 hour and 18 minutes. Senator Mohammad Humayun Mohmand (KP, PTI) spoke for 51 minutes. Senator Molvi Faiz Muhammad (Balochistan, JUIP) spoke for 49 minutes. Senator Syed Ali Zafar (Punjab, PTI) spoke for 48 minutes during the session.

Legislation

During the 335th session, total of 17 Private members bills were passed. Sixteen (16) Private members bills were also introduced which were referred to relevant standing committees. Sixteen (16) Private members bills were introduced and referred to relevant standing committees in the session.

Analysis

In its last session of the parliamentary year concluding on March 11, 2024 and ahead of the election of the Senate scheduled for half of the membership of the Senate, the Senate discussed the situation emerging after the 2024 General Election held on February 08, 2024. The discussion was held on an adjournment motion which was moved by Senators Muhammad Tahir Bizinjo, Sardar Muhammad Shafiq Tareen, Mushtaq Ahmed, Syed Ali Zafar and others.[1]

Some of the Senators joining the discussion expressed concerns regarding the fairness and transparency of the GE 2024. Senators Muhammad Tahir Bizinjo, Sardar Muhammad Shafiq Tareen, Mushtaq Ahmed, Syed Ali Zafar, and others called for a thorough probe into the election results to ensure the integrity of the democratic process. Senator Saifullah Abro (Sindh, PTI) emphasized the need to verify essential documents related to GE 2024 aiming to establish credibility and transparency. Senator Taj Haider (Sindh, PPPP) urged political parties to prioritize rationalism over emotionalism in addressing electoral grievances, highlighting the importance of a peaceful and legal resolution to disputes. Additionally, concerns were raised about the shutdown of mobile and internet services on election day, with Senators demanding an explanation and restoration of digital rights. Despite efforts to address these concerns, the discussion was not concluded, as Caretaker Minister for Human Rights Khalil George was not allowed to present his perspective before the House.[2]

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed said that just as mobile and internet services were shut down, “at that moment, it was evident that polls were not free, fair or transparent.” In addition, Senators Muhammad Tahir Bizinjo, Syed Ali Zafar, Sardar Muhammad Shafiq Tareen, Mohammad Humayun Mohmand, Hidayatullah Khan, Behramand Khan Tungi, Muhammad Akram, Zeeshan Khanzada, Umer Farooq, Prof. Dr. Mehr Taj Roghani, Molvi Faiz Muhammad, and Fawzia Arshad also raised questions about the fairness and transparency of the GE 2024, calling for an investigation to assess their legitimacy.[3]

The Senate also saw a unified condemnation of alleged electoral rigging in the GE 2024. Accusations were directed at the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) for violating the Constitution and committing treason. Senators from the PTI called for a judicial investigation into the election results and an audit of Form-45, while the Senators from the PPP suggested legal action against parties allegedly tampering with results. Amidst the discussions, Senators from the PML-N urged political actors to engage actively in parliamentary proceedings.[4]

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed also demanded prosecution of the CEC for alleged constitutional violations and treason, asserting that the election had been marred by rigging. He called for accountability from the ECP and resignation of the CEC, emphasizing the need for a transparent judicial commission to examine the election process. Senator Syed Ali Zafar highlighted challenges faced by the PTI, including harassment and obstructions and asserted the people’s resounding support for imprisoned party leader Mr. Imran Khan. Senator Irfan Siddiqui of the PML-N acknowledged historical electoral imperfections, calling for scrutiny of the 2018 polls and highlighting widespread irregularities.[5]

In the first sitting of the session on February 19, 2024, Senator Mushtaq Ahmed presented the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2023 which proposed public hanging as a punishment for those accused of rape. The bill, despite support from 14 Senators belonging to the PML-Q, the JUIP, and the PTI, faced rejection with 24 votes against it in the house with concerns raised by opposition parties, including the PPP, the PML-N, and the National Party.[6] Senator Sherry Rehman (Sindh, PPPP) emphasized that public hangings would only propagate brutality and argued for improving policing rather than relying on harsh punishment. Senator Irfan Siddiqui advocated for maintaining the existing method of hanging within the confines of the gallows, while Leader of the House, Senator Ishaq Dar, opposed public hanging citing the existence of the death penalty in the law. Senator Syed Ali Zafar supported the death penalty but rejected public execution emphasizing the need for a better justice system. However, Senator Kamil Ali Agha (Punjab, PML-Q) argued for adherence to Islamic principles, referencing practices in other countries. Senator Muhammad Humayun Mohmand of the PTI stood in favour of public execution, suggesting it could act as a deterrent to rape.[7]

The Senate of Pakistan also discussed the role of Caretaker government and its performance with Senators raising concerns about the caretaker government system, suggesting it goes against the principles of parliamentary democracy. Senator Saadia Abbasi (Punjab, PML-N) highlighted the need to address anomalies in the Constitution to foster democracy in Pakistan and criticized the performance of the caretaker government. She argued that the concept of caretakers undermines parliamentary democracy as it disrupts the continuity of governance until the new leadership takes over. Her sentiments were echoed by Senator Irfan Siddiqui (Punjab PML-N), who emphasized that the caretaker system should be abolished, aligning with global trends that have moved beyond such arrangements. The critique extended to the performance of the recent caretaker government particularly its transparency and effectiveness during its tenure. Senator Siddiqui questioned the credibility of caretakers, especially considering the duration they held office and the concerns raised about election transparency. Furthermore, there were calls to revisit constitutional provisions, such as Articles 62 and 63, to restore their original intent, highlighting a broader conversation about constitutional reform and democratic norms.[8]

On March 11, 2024, 52 Senators retired after completing their six-year term in the Senate. In their farewell speeches, they stressed on the need for all political parties to unite in restoring true democracy in the country. Addressing various concerns, they highlighted foreign policy issues, the Kashmir and Palestinian conflicts, and provincial rights. Additionally, questions were raised regarding the Senate’s role in legislation and Pakistan’s stability.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed (KP, JI) urged political parties to engage in dialogue to ensure civilian supremacy. He stressed that civilian supremacy, in accordance with the Constitution, was crucial for resolving Pakistan’s economic and political challenges and returning the country to the right path. Senator Mushtaq acknowledged the essential role of the Armed Forces and intelligence agencies in ensuring sovereignty, security, and defence but their alleged intervention in politics and the electoral process goes against the Constitution and their oath of duty. Referring to the army’s claim that it had nothing to do with the electoral process made through a press release after the corps commanders conference, he rejected the stance and said the army should prove a lack of role by practical actions not through press release. “The solution to the issues confronting the country lies in true democracy and not in its hybrid version of it,” he maintained.[9]

Senator Mohammad Akram( Balochistan, NP), expressed his disappointment in not being able to resolve the issues of missing persons and the development of Balochistan during his tenure. He lamented that Pakistan has witnessed different systems but has not witnessed development and prosperity. He emphasized the need for an overhaul of Pakistan’s system to ensure development and prosperity, stating that Pakistan cannot prosper until free and fair elections are conducted and the Parliament is made sovereign.

Senator Saifullah Abro emphasized the importance of political parties keeping dialogue open to resolve the issues facing Pakistani people. He assured the House, on behalf of the PTI, of their readiness to engage in dialogue with all political parties, but only if they agree to concede special and reserved seats allotted to them by the Election Commission of Pakistan. He urged all politicians and political parties to respect the Constitution of Pakistan and strive to uphold it.[10]

Senator Molvi Faiz Muhammad (Balochistan, JUIP) emphasized the need to focus on the issues facing the people of Balochistan. Senator Sana Jamali urged political parties to respect national institutions and fully support them for the development of the country. Senator Saleem Mandviwalla expressed regret over actions that went against the public and the country’s interests, stating that the people of Pakistan had sent them to the Parliament for the prosperity and development of the country. Senator Prof. Dr. Mehr Taj Roghani (KP, PTI) said that the oath of the senators should not be mandatory for senators because they don’t justify it with their acts when coming into power.[11]

Senators also advocated for provincial rights, foreign policy issues, resolution of issues facing overseas Pakistanis, and fostering dialogue among political parties. The importance of listening to diverse viewpoints within the Senate and working towards strengthening the democratic system was underscored by several Senators in their farewell remarks.[12]

Time Consumed on Discussion of Policy Issues during 335th Session

The effectiveness of the session’s time utilization can be assessed by examining the duration dedicated to discussing significant matters of democratic governance. During the 335th session, total time consumed for discussion on policy issues spanned over 8 hours and 28 minutes. The maximum time consumed in discussing policy issues was spent on the situation arising out of the results of General Election 2024 which lasted 2 hour and 04 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. “Rigging charges: Senators call for legal action against CEC,” The Nation online, February 21, 2024, accessed April 29, 2024. https://www.nation.com.pk/21-Feb-2024/rigging-charges-senators-call-for-legal-action-against-cec.

  2. Iftikhar A. Khan, “Senators call for CEC’s arrest, trial for ‘treason,” Dawn online, February 21, 2024, accessed April 29, 2024. https://www.dawn.com/news/1815901.

  3. Senators demand probe for fair elections, respect of public mandate,” Associated Press of Pakistan online, February 20, 2024, accessed April 26, 2024. https://www.app.com.pk/national/senators-demand-probe-for-fair-elections-respect-of-public-mandate/.

  4. Iftikhar A. Khan, “Senators call for CEC’s arrest, trial for ‘treason,” Dawn online, February 21, 2024, accessed April 29, 2024. https://www.dawn.com/news/1815901.

  5. Senators seek treason proceedings against CEC,” The Express Tribune online, February 20, 2024, accessed April 26, 2024. https://tribune.com.pk/story/2457041/senators-seek-treason-proceedings-against-cec.

  6. Nausheen Yusuf, “Senate rejects bill seeking public hanging of rapists,” The News online, February 19, 2024, accessed April 29, 2024. https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/1159268-senate-rejects-bill-seeking-public-hanging-of-rapists.

  7. Iftikhar A. Khan, “Rival parties in Senate join hands to block bill seeking public hanging of rapists,” Dawn online, February 20, 2024, accessed April 26, 2024. https://www.dawn.com/news/1815647.

  8. Iftikhar A. Khan, “Concept of caretaker setup negates parliamentary democracy, senators say,” Dawn online, March 07, 2024, accessed April 26, 2024. https://www.dawn.com/news/1819746.

  9. Imran Mukhtar, “Senators call for bringing civilian supremacy,” The Nation online, March 08, 2024, accessed April 29, 2024. https://www.nation.com.pk/08-Mar-2024/senators-call-for-bringing-civilian-supremacy.

  10. Mumtaz Alvi, “Senators call for civilian supremacy, national dialogue,” The News online, March 08, 2024, accessed April 29, 2024. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/1165747-senators-call-for-civilian-supremacy-national-dialogue.

  11. Iftikhar A. Khan, “JI senator calls for political dialogue to ensure civilian supremacy,” Dawn News online, March, 08, 2024, accessed April 29, 2024. https://www.dawn.com/news/1819872.

  12. Naeem Asghar, “Outgoing senators express parting wishes” The Express Tribune online, March 07, 2024, accessed April 26, 2024. https://tribune.com.pk/story/2458633/outgoing-senators-express-parting-wishes.