Quorum becomes order of day for National Assembly

Published September 25, 2021
A view of the National Assembly. — Dawn/File
A view of the National Assembly. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: Quorum has become an order of the day for the National Assembly as Friday was the fifth consecutive day when the chair adjourned the sitting without taking up any agenda item after an opposition member pointed out lack of quorum soon after recitation from the Holy Quran and playing of the national anthem.

A minority member of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Kesoo Mal Kheeal Das, mentioned the lack of quorum as soon as Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri declared start of the Question Hour.

Mr Suri ordered a headcount of members and later adjourned the sitting till Monday afternoon.

When Mr Das was pointing out lack of quorum, for which the presence of 86 members (one-fourth) of the 342-member house is required, his other colleagues on the opposition benches had started leaving the house for the lobby without giving any reason for their walkout.

Friday was the fifth consecutive day when house failed to take up any agenda

The quorum issue has been haunting the National Assembly for quite some time, but since the start of the fourth parliamentary year last month, the issue has acquired the form of a serious issue. Interestingly, so far, there has been no official word either from the speaker or the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) over the issue despite constant criticism from the opposition as well as from outside over the failure of the government to ensure quorum in the assembly.

Article 55(2) of the Constitution under the title “Voting in Assembly and quorum” reads: “If at any time during the sitting of the National Assembly the attention of the person presiding is drawn to the fact that less than one-fourth of the total membership of the Assembly is present, he shall either adjourn the Assembly or suspend the session until at least one-fourth of such membership is present.”

Many political and constitutional experts believe that pointing out quorum during the routine discussion and Question Hour is a misuse of the constitutional provision as quorum can only be pointed out during voting on some important issue. According to them, the spirit of this provision is to ensure maximum participation of members while doing legislation as Article 55(1) says that “all decisions of the National Assembly shall be taken by majority of the members present and voting”.

Muddasir Rizvi, an official of the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen), said there was a need to revisit the rules and the constitutional provision with regard to the quorum to prevent its misuse.

He pointed out that such a provision was available in constitutions and rules of almost all parliaments in the world, but it was used very selectively.

PPP information secretary Shazia Atta Marri said in a statement that it seemed that PTI members were displeased over the bad governance of the ruling party as the government had failed to complete the quorum of the National Assembly.

Ms Marri said that even now the PTI members were not ready to support this “government of liars”.

She said unemployed and inflation-hit people’s level of patience had been running out while the ruling party’s members had also been fed up by hearing the same speeches of Prime Minister Imran Khan for three years.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2021

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