Slow start

Published June 15, 2024

As Pakistan marks the first 100 days of this National Assembly’s tenure, a report by Fafen reveals a mix of significant shortcomings as well as commendable efforts. The slow legislative progress remains a concern.

Despite high attendance, with an average of 230 members per sitting, the NA managed to pass only a single money bill during this period. The delayed formation of standing committees, in violation of procedural rules, further hindered its effectiveness.

The proceedings were also marked by points of order consuming 30pc of the time MNAs met, rather than substantive legislative business. Additionally, it wasted valuable time on protests, with lawmakers from the Sunni Ittehad Council and allied independents staging 11 protests on the floor, further detracting from legislative productivity.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s attendance at only two sittings is also a point of concern. This low attendance rate, especially when compared to former premiers Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif, who attended 29pc and 26pc of the sittings respectively, sends a troubling signal about the executive’s commitment to parliamentary engagement.

Additionally, the NA’s inefficiency in addressing its scheduled business is disturbing. Nearly 24pc of the business remained either deferred or unaddressed, exposing the gap between intent and action.

Meanwhile, the disparity in participation is stark, with 49pc of lawmakers remaining inactive, not sponsoring any agenda items or taking part in discussions. Public engagement suffered due to restricted access to the public’s gallery, a move detrimental to transparency. The limited availability of livestreams and video recordings of proceedings further restricted public oversight.

Despite these shortcomings, the NA made some notable strides. The high attendance rate, with 302 members at its peak, indicates a general commitment to parliamentary duties.

This is further evidenced by the enhanced focus on gender responsiveness. The NA established a parliamentary committee on gender mainstreaming and adopted resolutions promoting gender equality and addressing inappropriate language against women lawmakers.

The commitment to bipartisanship is another positive aspect. The House allocated nearly 54pc of the time used for points of order to the opposition, fostering an environment of inclusivity amidst polarisation. The PM’s maiden speech outlined comprehensive plans for various sectors of government and the economy.

These commitments, if followed through, could significantly impact our development trajectory. The participation rate among female MNAs is particularly encouraging, with a higher rate of 61pc compared to their male counterparts at 49pc.

So while these first 100 days reflect persistent inefficiencies and areas needing urgent reform, they also highlight promising steps. Moving forward, it is imperative for the NA to build on the positives while addressing its inefficiencies to truly serve the people.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2024

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