Senate session spirals out of chair’s control

Senators traded barbs, disrupted proceedings, as Ahmed Hassan struggled to keep the house in order

Sardar Sikander September 16, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The 252nd session of the Senate that was prorogued on September 9 was marked by the disinterest of senators thanks to the lack of supervisory control exercised by the upper house’s acting Chairman Ahmed Hassan.

Owing to the scheduled absence of Chairman Raza Rabbani, who was serving as acting president with President Mamnoon Hussain away on Hajj, Hassan was nominated to conduct five-day Senate session that started on Monday.

However, to the utter disappointment of many, Hassan failed in keeping the house under control.

During the session, the senators were repeatedly found trading barbs not only with one another but with the acting chairman that often disrupted the proceedings. Use of un-parliamentary language went unnoticed and was not expunged from the proceedings.

Hassan also faced accusations of taking sides, especially by the opposition lawmakers, that questioned his impartiality despite the fact that the acting chairman himself belonged to opposition’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

He was seen reading out what appeared to be pre-determined outcomes and consulting Senate staff on different legislative matters. Generally, almost each session witnessed turmoil and disruptions as the acting chairman struggled to keep the house in order.

Deputy Chairman of Senate Abdul Ghafoor Haideri did not regularly attend the house proceedings, reportedly, because of some personal reasons, which was the main reason Hassan continued for the whole session.

At the outset of the 252nd session (September 5), the proceedings had to be adjourned due to lack of quorum. The house remained suspended for a while on second day too, till the proceedings were resumed when the quorum was finally met.

Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq, however, defended the acting chairman’s conduct. “We need to understand that he (Ahmed Hassan) does not preside over Senate proceedings on a regular basis. He is not even deputy chairman. It was a rare occasion that he had the chance to chair the proceedings,” he told The Express Tribune.

“There might be certain shortcomings in his style of conducting the proceedings…because it is not his job, after all. If you do anything on a regular basis, you acquire perfection in that very skill. With the passage of time, things can get streamlined. It’s all about time,” he said.

On the business side, things remain unimpressively slack as well. According to data issued by  Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), a total of 11 bills appeared on the agenda, of which nine remained unaddressed, which included the Political  Parties Order (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Police  Order  (Amendment)  Bill, 2016; the Islamabad Prohibition of Sheesha Smoking Bill, 2016; the Pakistan  Penal  Code (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Insertion of new sections 320A and 337JJ); the  Islamabad  Restriction  on Employment of Children Bill, 2016; the Prohibition  of  Smoking  and  Protection  of  Non-smokers Health (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Islamabad Capital Territory Private  Educational  Institutions  (Registration  and  Regulation)  (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the  Islamabad  Registration (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the Pakistan  Penal  Code (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Amendment in section 364A).

The house concluded its business without any legislation, FAFEN observed. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not attend any proceeding of the session.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2016.


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