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‘MNAs attendance record not for public’

March 23, 2013

ISLAMABAD, March 22: An intervention by a federal ombudsman has been sought after National Assembly Secretariat’s refused to divulge complete attendance record of the members who completed their term on March 16.

The National Assembly Secretariat declined to share the record on the plea that the inquired statistics did not constitute public record, under Section 7 of the Freedom of information (FOI) ordinance 2002.

Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and transparency (Pildat), which has been carrying out assessment of Parliamentary performance since 2002, has sought support from the Federal ombudsman to receive attendance record of MNAs from the National Assembly.

In its complaint filed with the ombudsman, it observed that attendance of Parliamentarians did not constitute ‘excluded information’ under section 15-18 of the FOI ordinance 2002.

It further elaborated that it had the right to know the commitment and dedication of the Members of the Parliament towards their legislative duties, for which they had been elected through an electoral process. It claimed that in the current circumstances when the voters are to re-elect MNAs and MPAs for a new term, it is important for them to know their performance during the past 5 years.

Catering to the complaint, the ombudsman has now officially sought a response from the National Assembly Secretariat.

“We fully realise that attendance is not the only criteria to gauge an MP's performance. But when the assembly faces serious quorum issues repeatedly and the working of the assembly suffers due to nonparticipation of members, voters and citizens must know those MNAs who regularly show up in the House and those who don’t.” critiqued Ahmad Bilal Mehboob, President Pildat.

He underlined the need to learn from Indian Parliament, where daily attendance of all members was posted on the official website as publicly available information. This transparency, he claimed, had led to greater respect for the institution itself.He was of the view that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had rightly emphasised on a greater degree of transparency about candidates’ past record in the new nomination forms and it was essential for the National Assembly to facilitate the process.

Bilal further observed that in order to appraise and appreciate the hard working MNAs who had been integrally involved in the workings of the National Assembly, scrutiny of the overall record was necessary.—Iftikhar A. Khan