Lack of interest, absenteeism mar National Assembly

Published May 14, 2022
Deputy Speaker Zahid Durrani.
Deputy Speaker Zahid Durrani.

ISLAMABAD: Lack of interest and absenteeism marred proceedings of the National Assembly on Friday, forcing Deputy Speaker Zahid Durrani to adjourn the sitting due to lack of quorum even without completing the question hour.

The quorum was pointed out by Saira Bano of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) following a strong protest by lawmakers from the treasury as well as the opposition over non-receipt of replies of a number of questions and absence of ministers.

Before adjourning the house till Monday afternoon, Mr Durrani issued a ruling and urged ministers and senior officials of the ministries to ensure their presence during the house proceedings.

Directing the staff to provide him the attendance of government officials on a daily basis, the deputy speaker declared that he would not allow the house to be run on the pattern of the previous three years under the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.

The ruling came from Mr Durrani when Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed Abbasi asked him to order absent government officials to reach the parliament before completion of the question hour.

“If the house had been disgraced over the last four years, we will not let this happen anymore,” declared Mr Abbasi after not being able to reply on behalf of Minister for Communications Asad Mahmood and Science and Technology Minister Agha Hassan Baloch who, according to him, were absent from the proceedings without any prior intimation.

Pointing out lack of quorum, Ms Bano threatened that she would keep on pointing out quorum problems every day till the ministers ensured their presence in the house.

During the question hour, Shazia Sobia of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) drew the attention of the chair towards the non-seriousness on the part of the ministries, stating that there were 12 questions out of total 27 which had not been answered.

Similarly, she said, there were no answers of 15 questions out of 29 on Thursday.

Since the beginning of the current session on May 10, the lower house of the parliament has mostly been run without quorum.

The small opposition group present in the assembly had also disrupted the proceedings on Tuesday by pointing out the quorum issue.

This is the first regular session of the National Assembly after the coalition government under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took office last month and both Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and his deputy have been struggling to keep the parliament functional in the wake of mass resignations of 123 PTI members following the success of the no-confidence resolution against Imran Khan.

The speaker, who is yet to begin the process of the verification of resignations of PTI members, has been running the house by allowing the members to deliver lengthy speeches and speak on issues of their choice on points of order without caring for the agenda items. Taking advantage of the situation, the members have also adopted a new strategy of getting the floor after threatening that otherwise, they will point out quorum.

The delay in the nomination of the new opposition leader has also rendered the house incomplete.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2022

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