• Imran attended seven, Shehbaz 10 sittings this year
• 100 bills passed in first three years of PTI govt
ISLAMABAD: Though the National Assembly performed better in terms of legislation during the recently-concluded third parliamentary year, it failed to see any improvement in the attendance of members, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, as 24 out of the 79 total sittings were adjourned due to lack of quorum.
According to a report titled, “Three Years of the 15th National Assembly: Citizens’ Perspective” released by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) on Monday, PM Khan attended only seven, out of a total of 79 sittings of the assembly, whereas Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif attended only 10 sittings.
“The absence of ministers and parliamentary secretaries has been consistently criticised not just by the opposition but also by the displeasure of chairs numerous times during three years,” says the report, adding that “during the third parliamentary year, presiding officers severely criticised absence of relevant ministers and parliamentary secretaries at least on four occasions”.
The lack of MNAs’ attendance has resulted in multiple adjournments in the sittings of the third year of the assembly. The data shows that lack of quorum was pointed out in 49 sittings while 24 sittings (31 per cent) had to be adjourned due to lack of quorum in the assembly.
For maintaining quorum, the presence of at least 86 members, one-fourth of the 342-member house, is required.
“While politics in Pakistan has not yet fully evolved to be rid of political rancour, the National Assembly has been extraordinarily confronted with a relatively high degree of political toxicity which was largely absent from previous assemblies, especially the assemblies during the terms of 2008-2013 and 2013-2018 although the 14th National Assembly faced an extended sit-in and assault on its premises by the then opposition PTI and its ally PAT,” says the report.
When it comes to political blows, the year has been free for all. From calling former prime ministers as ‘traitors’ to bringing in children of political opponents in the forte of politics, the 15th National Assembly has seen and heard it all. As a result, the assembly has witnessed serious disruptions which have been caused through mayhem in the house with treasury and opposition legislators coming nearly to blows, latest during the budget session in 2021.
According to the report, legislative activity has seen a sharp increase in the third year of the National Assembly ended on August 12 as it passed 60 laws. This is 100% increase over 30 bills passed in the second year by the assembly. The first year had seen the passage of only 10 bills. Overall, the present National Assembly has passed 100 bills during the first three years, compared to 69 total bills which were passed by the previous National Assembly in its first three years.
“The increase in legislative activity in the 15th National Assembly in its first three years is, therefore, 45pc higher than the legislation during the first three years of the previous National Assembly,” it says.
Another positive development has been the decrease in the number of ordinances laid by the government in the assembly during the third year. As many as 20 ordinances were laid in the house in the third year, compared to 31 ordinances laid in the assembly during its second year, which is a decrease of about 35pc. As many as 29 ordinances were laid by the previous government in the first three years of the 14th National Assembly compared to 58 ordinances laid by the current government in the 15th National Assembly in three years, showing 100pc increase.
During its third year, the National Assembly has met only for 79 working days, which have seen a decline of 11pc from 89 working days in the second year. On the average, National Assembly has met for 88 working days per year in its first three years. In comparison, the previous National Assembly under the PML-N government had met for an average of 99 working days per year during its first 3 years. In that sense also, the performance of the 15th National Assembly has declined by 11pc compared to the 14th National Assembly.
In its third year, the National Assembly has met for 217 hours and six minutes. The working hours have declined by 36pc from the second year of the assembly when it had convened for a total of 340 hours and 20 minutes. The average working hours of the 15th National Assembly in three years are 284 hours and 52 minutes. In the first three years of the 14th National Assembly, the average working hours were 312 hours and 5 minutes.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has only attended seven sittings in the third year, which is consistent with his attendance during the second year. On an average, the prime minister attended 12pc sittings in the first three years of the National Assembly. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif attended on an average 16pc of the sittings in the first three years.
Similarly, Leader of Opposition Shahbaz Sharif attended 13pc of the sittings in the third year. This has improved from only 4pc of his attendance during the second year of the assembly. However, when compared with the average attendance of the previous Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah, who attended, on an average 75pc of the sittings of the 14th Assembly in its first three years, the average attendance of Shahbaz Sharif is only calculated to be 24pc in three years.
Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2021