ISLAMABAD: The budget sessions of both the houses of parliament — National Assembly and Senate — are set to begin on Friday (today) as the staff of the two secretariats are geared up to ensure strict adherence to the SOPs (standard operating procedures) to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The Senate is scheduled to meet in the morning whereas the National Assembly session will be held in the afternoon and the orders of the day for both the houses have already been issued by the respective secretariat.
In a related development, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday nominated Dr Shahzad Waseem as the new Leader of the House in the Senate. Mr Waseem is replacing Shibli Faraz, who last month took charge as federal minister for information and broadcasting.
According to a spokesman for the Senate Secretariat, the prime minister has already informed Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani about Dr Waseem’s nomination through a letter and a notification in this regard is expected to be issued before the start of the session on Friday morning.
Dr Waseem nominated Leader of House in Senate; NA session to continue till Aug 13
Dr Waseem had previously served as minister of state for interior in the military regime under General Pervez Musharraf.
The government plans to present the federal budget for the financial year 2020-21 on June 12.
The National Assembly is expected to witness a low attendance on the opening day of the session on Friday as the lower house of parliament will not be carrying out its normal business due to the recent death of MNA from the country’s tribal areas Munir Orakzai. It has been a parliamentary tradition that the National Assembly and the Senate adjourn their first sitting held after the death of a sitting member.
The Senate Secretariat on Thursday issued SOPs for the session in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to SOPs, “no individual will be allowed to accompany the senators into the Parliament House and only one person will be allowed to accompany the ministers and the state ministers”.
Similarly, only one officer, not below BS-20, from ministries/divisions will be required to ensure presence in the galleries.
All the senators and every other individual entering the Parliament House will have to go through thermal-gun screening.
The Parliamentary Reporters Association will ensure entry of minimum possible number of journalists into the Press Gallery in view of limited space.
Keeping in view limitation of space in the house, seats have been allocated only to the leader of the house, leader of the opposition, ministers and parliamentary leaders of the parties whereas all other senators may assume available seats as and when they come, without a pre-allocated seating plan.
All the senators have been asked to use face mask, gloves and sanitisers, which will be provided to them at their tables.
All the senators have also been asked to get their coronavirus tests done before coming for the session.
The Senate Secretariat has issued a 12-point agenda for the Friday’s sitting which includes laying of a number of reports of the standing committees, besides question hour.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan will also “lay before the Senate a copy of the Money Bill, the Members of Parliament (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, as required under Article 73 of the Constitution” for seeking recommendations from the senators.
It may be recalled that Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry had already opposed the decision of his own government to convene physical sessions of the two houses of parliament and called for holding virtual sittings.
The minister had stated that five lawmakers had already died due to coronavirus and nearly three dozen others had also tested positive. Moreover, he said that he had reports that a large number of employees of the National Assembly Secretariat had also been affected by Covid-19.
On the other hand, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif had written a letter to Speaker Asad Qaiser, suggesting him an agenda for the first five days of the assembly session prior to the presentation of the federal budget.
The opposition leader has suggested to the speaker to allow the members to have thorough debate on key national issues, including the May 22 crash of Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) aircraft near Karachi airport and the situation arising due to spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and locust attack in various parts of the country.
The government has already decided to hold the National Assembly sitting continuously for 10 weeks in order to meet the constitutional requirement of remaining in session for a minimum of 130 days in a parliamentary year.
The parliamentary year of the present assembly starts from August 13. The National Assembly has so far held 77 sittings since August 13 last year.
Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2020