PESHAWAR, July 1: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, often described by lawmakers a jirga (tribal council), is gradually transforming into a free-for-all hujra, but with little regard for the rules of business and parliamentary traditions.
The highest traditions of the parliamentary system, which are important for maintaining decorum and dignity of the House, are vanishing, though every member while taking oath has declared that he/she will perform in accordance with the Constitution, the law and the rules of the assembly.
The lawmakers are bound to obey Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Procedure and Conduct of Business Rules comprising total 251 rules and observe certain standards of conduct inside the House as well as outside.
But lawmakers from treasury as well as opposition hardly follow these written rules and traditions that affect business and decorum of the House where majority of the members are new and inexperienced.
During the current budget session the chair gave floor to the member for speaking on his/her cut motion, but the MPA concerned without seeking permission start debate on other irrelevant issues.
Law Minister Israrullah Khan Gandapur during the proceeding drew the chair’s attention towards conduct of the MPAs, but his observations were ignored.
Interestingly total 1,174 cut motions were tabled on 110 demands for grants by the opposition and treasury members on the annual and supplementary budgets, but not a singly cut motion was put on vote which speaks volumes about the standard of the business.
The speaker, custodian of the House, also violates procedure and conduct blatantly as he always starts the proceeding one hour late despite the fact that opposition benches are bringing the issue into his notice time and again.
The tradition of bowing to the chair while entering or leaving the House and when taking or leaving seat before the scheduled time of commencement of sitting are becoming a matter of past.
Astonishingly, out of 120 members of the House only Qaumi Watan Party parliamentary leader Sikandar Khan Sherpao or few others bow to the chair before entering the chamber.
A lawmaker from Buner is used to enter the chamber without lacing his traditional footwear and walks in swagger. Few days ago, another lawmaker from Swabi during break occupied the chair of the security guard at the main entry gate of the House to puff a cigarette.
A senior official of the assembly secretariat said that a legislator was not supposed to pass between the chair and another member when the latter was speaking. “Except opposition leader Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan I have never seen any member following this conduct when the House is in sitting,” he said.
Majority of the members are unaware of the procedure and conduct of rules of business, a booklet consisting of 94 pages. The assembly secretariat, officials said, had organised a two-day workshop for the lawmakers to educate them about parliamentary values and conduct of business, but only 49 members attended the event.
Under the parliamentary decorum and etiquette a member should not sit or stand with his back to the chair and should not interrupt another member while he is speaking by any disorderly expression.
Officials said that rules of business strongly prohibited crosstalk, use of cellular phone and even talking in the gangway, but lawmakers did not respect those rules and traditions.
Wajeehuz Zaman Khan, a senior lawmaker of Pakistan Muslim League, puts responsibility on speaker for maintaining decorum and strictly implementation of rules of business in the House.
“It depends upon the speaker, if he is strict then members will observe rules,” he observed. He said that after late Hidayatullah Khan Chamkani, the assembly did not get an upright and strict speaker so far, which was very unfortunate.
In his opinion, decline of the office of speaker started when Bakhat Jehan Khan of Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) became custodian of the assembly in 2002. He said that Bakhat Jehan’s predecessor Kiramatullah Chagharmatti failed to maintain the House’s decorum.
Yousaf Ayub Khan, minister for works and service, who is senior member of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf puts the responsibility on opposition side, saying 97 per cent of PTI lawmakers are new and they are learning. “On opposition side majority of the members are senior and got elected twice despite that they violate rules,” he stated.
He said that dilemma with the opposition was that every MPA considered himself as a parliamentary leader of his party. He said that two members from the same party recently read the same resolution, which was against the norms of the parliamentary traditions.
The minister said that opposition members had tabled 29 cut motions on a single demand for grant, related to the salaries of regular employees of communication and works department. Those practices, he said, not only wasted time and resources but also disturbed the assembly’s environment.