ISLAMABAD: The question-hour booklets and annexure submitted in parliament are a cause of much vexation in the upper and lower houses of the federal legislature.
The 60-80 page booklets — official documents prepared in response to the questions the members of the Senate and National Assembly ask — are riddled with mistakes, and contain either irrelevant or exaggerated information.
The oft-confusing answers have riled many opposition members and have frequently been a cause for uproar. There are two types of questions: starred and non-starred. Starred questions require oral answers. With the permission of the chair, members are allowed to ask a supplementary question.
Non-starred questions require written responses. When a reply is submitted, no supplementary question can be asked.
Besides the question-hour booklets, comprehensive data and details are submitted in the library of parliament under the name of ‘annexure’. A quick look through the papers is enough to expose how poorly the documents are prepared.
In the 122nd session of the upper house, the booklet misspelt the last name of Tariq Fazal Chaudhary — the state minister for the Capital Administration and Development Division — as ‘Chudhary’. In another booklet MNA Dr Fouzia Hameed’s first name was misspelt as ‘Fozia’.
On several occasions, American English is employed for the answers instead of British English — which is the standard by and large for the booklets and other official government documents.
In particular, the details submitted by the ministries are often confusing and irrelevant.
In 2013, Senator Saleem Mandviwalla had moved a privilege motion against an erroneous reply submitted by the Aviation Division to a question asked in the Senate.
“I have stopped submitting questions because it is useless and a waste of time,” MNA Asad Umar told The Express Tribune, adding that he used to submit documents and evidence, but the government’s response had always been disappointing.
“Once I contested the details submitted about soil erosion in Thatta and Badin,” said Senator Taj Haider, “and they started praising my knowledge instead of giving the correct figures.”
A four-member committee of parliamentary business, headed by Federal Climate Change Minister Zahid Hamid, met in parliament on January 12 and sought details from additional secretaries, joint secretaries and section officers dealing with parliamentary business.
“The ministers never bother to seriously talk about the business. We have to deal with all the stuff on our own,” said a section officer from the IT ministry.
Some officials complained that the questions asked are often confusing, while some said that despite the mandatory 15-day time for submitting answers, they are sought from them at the eleventh hour.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2016.