ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly is set to take up on Monday (today) an amendment to its rules making it mandatory for the prime minister to respond to questions of the members about government affairs on the floor of the house.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan will move an amendment to Rule 69 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business 2007 in the assembly, which suggests insertion of a sub-rule introducing “Prime Minister’s Question Hour”, according to an 11-point agenda issued by the NA Secretariat for Monday’s sitting.

Soon after winning the election of prime minister, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan had announced that he would make himself available on a fortnightly basis to the members of parliament to reply to their questions relating different matters on the floor of the house on the pattern of the British parliament.

Under the amendment, Imran will be bound to reply to questions on first Wednesday of each session and subject to his availability

However, the new rule suggests that the prime minster will be bound to reply to questions only on the first Wednesday of each session and subject to his availability.

“Notwithstanding anything contained in this Chapter, subject to availability of the prime minister, there shall be ‘Prime Minister’s Question Hour’ on the first Wednesday once in each session for answering questions on the matters relating to the overall substantive policy or the performance of government,” reads the new sub-rule (2) to be inserted in Rule 69 of the assembly rules.

Though the prime minister has a privilege of getting the floor of the National Assembly any time he wants to speak on any matter, Imran Khan wants to see the rules amended with a view to make it mandatory for future prime ministers as well to respond to the questions of MNAs.

Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani of the Pakistan Peoples Party was the only prime minister who was found to be present in the assembly during the question hour most of the time and even used to give replies to questions of the members, despite the fact that it was not mandatory for him. In 2012, the rules of the Senate were amended under which one hour was allocated for the prime minister to give reply to questions.

Rule 61 of the Senate says: “The prime minister shall whenever possible personally respond to points raised by members whenever he is present in the house. However, the prime minister shall attend the Prime Minister’s Zero Hour at least once in each week when the Senate is in session.”

However, this rule was never implemented as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif attended the Senate sessions only three to four times throughout his more than four-year rule.

Even former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani, who was otherwise known for strictly running the house under rules, never raised the issue of non-implementation of the rule. Similarly, though the senators usually complained about the absence of the prime minister and ministers from the house, they never called for implementation of the rule.

Debate on mini-budget

Besides taking up the proposed amendment, the members of the assembly are also expected to take part in a general debate on the mini-budget presented by Finance Minister Asad Umar last week.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry will lay the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 (No IX of 2018) and the minister of state for parliamentary affairs will present the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 (No XIII of 2018) in the assembly, which will be meeting after a five-day recess.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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