Completing its five year term, the 13th National Assembly achieved a legislative agenda which altered the country’s governance structure by ensuring provincial autonomy and restoring the 1973 Constitution, and promoted women’s empowerment, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) report on the five years performance of the lower house.
The lower house elected a woman speaker for the first time in Pakistan’s parliamentary history and the President addressed the joint sessions of the parliament for five consecutive years. Following the established parliamentary tradition, the Leader of the Opposition was elected as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
In 50 regular sessions, the National Assembly held 521 sittings — 100 in the first, 107 in the second, 108 in the third, 106 in the fourth and 100 in the fifth parliamentary year.
The National Assembly witnessed a historic change in the rules of procedure to allow standing committees to scrutinise ministerial budgetary proposals before being made part of the federal budget.
A new leader of the house was elected in the fifth parliamentary year after the Supreme Court disqualified Yousuf Raza Gilani in a contempt of court case. Similarly, in the fifth parliamentary year, 11 MNAs resigned on account of holding dual nationalities. Nine members of the lower house died during the five years, including Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti who was assassinated in Islamabad.
In the five parliamentary years, the National Assembly passed 134 bills – 116 government and 18 private members’ bills. Out of these, 81 became acts of Parliament.
Though the National Assembly passed only five bills in the first parliamentary year, the legislation picked up pace in the second, third, fourth and fifth parliamentary years, with the lower house passing 32, 31, 29, and 37 bills respectively. Out of the total passed government bills, 56 sought amendments in the existing laws and the rest were new bills.
These included the 18th and 20th constitutional amendment bills, which helped restored the 1973 Constitution, ensured provincial autonomy and gave Pakistan a consensus mechanism for civilian transfer of power democratically, besides the formation of the full five-member Election Commission of Pakistan.
However, the four bills to tackle terrorism were passed only in the fifth parliamentary year and that too in the last three sessions. Similarly, the National Assembly failed to enact a new law on accountability despite the government introducing the National Accountability Act in October 2012.
The 13th National Assembly stands out for pro-women legislation, passing treasury and private members’ bills against domestic violence, harassment at the workplace and public places, anti-women practices, and elevating the status of the commission on women.
Unlike past assemblies, the lower house witnessed the healthy trend of passing private members’ bills. Overall, 189 private members bills were introduced in the house, with 135 seeking amendments in existing laws. Out of these, 18 bills were passed. Pakistan Peoples Party lawmakers introduced the most number of private members’ bills (62 or 33%) followed by 53 each by Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) legislators.
The debate on budget lasted for 82 sittings during the five parliamentary years – 19 in the first, 14 in the second, 22 in the third, 17 in the fourth and 10 sittings in the fifth. On average, the budget debate lasted 16 sittings in each parliamentary year.
Out of total 243 resolutions moved in the lower house in these five years, 85 were adopted. Six resolutions on women’s rights and five each on minorities’ rights and blasphemy were adopted. Similarly, the lower house adopted resolutions on a host of issues such as Balochistan, increase in prices of petroleum products, child rights, killing of polio workers and journalists, democracy, attack on Malala Yousufzai, terrorism, human rights, situation in Swat, Nato’s attack on Salala check post, targeted killings, missing persons, the killing of Osama bin Laden and creation of new provinces.
In the five parliamentary years, 216 legislators asked 16,056 questions on the floor of the house, on average 3,211 questions every year. The government fully responded to 12,623 questions, with 3,357 queries remaining ignored, 68 receiving partial answers, six withdrawn and two lapsed. In other words the government responded fully to 79% of the total questions submitted.
The main opposition PML-N asked the most questions, 9,903, which is 62 per cent of the total questions. More active in their oversight role, 20 female legislators from PML-N asked 5,347 questions – on average each of them asking 267.
Overall, 55 female legislators asked 8,138 questions compared to 161 male lawmakers asking 7,918 questions in the five years. Women parliamentarians elected on reserved seats fulfilled their oversight role, as they submitted almost 48 per cent of the total questions.
Calling attention notices
During the five parliamentary years, legislators brought to the House’s notice issues of urgent public importance — 109 in the first, 108 in the second, 120 in the third, 122 in the fourth and 84 in the fifth. Out of the 543 notices, the House took up 440 for discussion during the five parliamentary years.
In five parliamentary years, 23 legislators, among them five women and 18 men, did not take part in any parliamentary business. Of them, eight belonged to each PPP and PML-Q, two to PML-N and ANP each and one each to Pakistan Muslim League - Functional and National People’s Party along with one Independent.
Points of order
A total of 311 lawmakers spoke on scores of constituency, national and international issues through 5,099 points of order in the five years.