Plan to conduct NA session amid Covid spike to be discussed

Published April 19, 2021
The HBAC meeting will be presided over by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser before start of the assembly session. — Photo courtesy Government of Pakistan Twitter/File
The HBAC meeting will be presided over by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser before start of the assembly session. — Photo courtesy Government of Pakistan Twitter/File

ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition representatives during a meeting of the House Business Advisory Committee (HBAC) here on Monday will discuss the plan to conduct the ongoing session of the National Assembly which the government has convened in an effort to meet the constitutional requirement of keeping the house in session for at least 130 days in a parliamentary year.

The HBAC meeting will be presided over by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser before start of the assembly session.

The agenda of the meeting shows that the members will discuss the duration of the session and the SOPs (standard operating procedures) in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, besides the business to be conducted during the ongoing session which began on April 16 at a time when the country is facing an unprecedented surge in the Covid-19 cases.

Representatives of govt, opposition set to meet today

Sources said the members would not only discuss the number of days for which the assembly would remain in session, but they would also discuss the duration of each sitting in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic situation. The government had initially proposed holding of the sitting three days a week and that each day the session would not last for more than two hours. It has also been announced that “a minimum number of the members will remain in the house at a time” and that “the parliamentary parties will be informed three days in advance in case of taking up any important legislation during the session”.

The government had convened the assembly session on less than 24-hour notice and on the day when the Senate Secretariat, located in the same building, was closed for three days due to rise in the number of Covid-19 cases and in order to disinfect the premises. The opposition members had protested over the government’s act of convening the session on such a short notice, besides objecting to the government’s decision to run each sitting for only two hours.

Last month, when the government convened the National Assembly session on a one-day notice just to get extension in the period of some ordinances and to form a parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, the opposition had lodged a strong protest. This time, however, the session has reportedly been convened with the understanding of opposition members.

The official data of the National Assembly Secretariat shows that the assembly has so far remained in session for 64 days since the start of the third parliamentary year in August last year. The number of actual sittings during the eight months is only 38 as the two sandwiched holidays between two working days are also counted as the session days.

This means that the government is required to keep the assembly in session for another 66 days by August 12. It is expected that the government will manage to meet the constitutional requirement as the budget session is also round the corner.

The National Assembly Secretariat on Sunday issued an 11-point agenda for Monday’s sitting.

The agenda contains two calling attention notices on the issues of “non-availability of open, fair and transparent system of mutation (land/property) in Islamabad Capital Territory and federal areas” and “increasing trend of drug addiction among the youth in Lahore”.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari will introduce the Juvenile Justice System (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and the Islamabad Capital Territory Child Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri will table a bill to amend the Publication of the Holy Quran (Elimination of Printing and Recording Errors) Act, 1973, to the extent of Islamabad Capital Territory. The title of the bill is the Holy Quran (Elimination of Printing and Recording Errors) (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

A bill for introduction also stands in the name of the newly-appointed finance minister, Shaukat Tarin. He is required to table the bill to provide for governance and operation of the management and financial efficiency of state-owned enterprises owned and controlled by the federal government — the State-Owned Enterprises (Governance and Operations) Bill, 2021.

Ali Amin Gandapur, the minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, will introduce the Jammu and Kashmir (Admini­stration of Property) (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2021

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