FAFEN report : Loud rhetoric on resetting ties with US sputters in parliament

Published: April 16, 2012

Only one fourth of joint session time spent on PCNS debates. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: Despite the drama and accusations, legislators seem reluctant to deliberate over ties with the US.

The joint session of the parliament from March 20-April 12 saw only one-fourth of the session time being spent on debating the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) formed to review relations with the United States.

A report published by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), which is a network of 42 NGOs working to foster democratic accountability in Pakistan, states that 94% of the parliamentarians stayed away from the debate.

Only 28 out of the 445 legislators in the National Assembly and Senate debated the PCNS report for 338 minutes. This constituted only 25% of the total session time of 22 hours and 22 minutes.

Four per cent of the National Assembly members and 13% of the Senators spoke on the ties with US that have become increasingly frail in the wake of the Nato attack on Salala check post which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November.

The PCNS was constituted after the incident to shape up a new foreign policy. However, despite the accusations, parliamentarians were reluctant to share their thoughts on the floor of the House.

With only one-fourth of the session time being consumed for actually discussing the PCNS report, the rest of the time was taken up to discuss target killings in Karachi and Balochistan, sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan, increase in prices of petroleum products and power outages along with a string of other issues.

The PCNS report was completely ignored in three sittings. In the eighth sitting it was discussed for only 15 minutes by a PPP legislator.

Though the opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) rejected the first draft of the PCNS recommendations, their legislators were conspicuous by their absence during the debate.  Three PML-N Senators and two MNAs took part in the debate. The party has 104 legislators in the two houses of the parliament.

One parliamentarian each from Awami National Party (ANP), JUI-F, Mutthida Majlis-e-Amal Party (MMAP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) took part in the debate. Similarly, 32 Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) legislators in the two houses and 12 Independents in the Senate stayed away from the debate on the report.

Though 11 legislators of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) shared their thoughts on the report, they only make up seven per cent of the treasury benches in the parliament.

Now that the parliament has unanimously approved the new recommendations, the reactions and statements of other parties have begun to pour in.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2012.

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