ISLAMABAD .: Despite political controversies in the past five years, the 14th National Assembly took up an unprecedented legislative agenda by approving 205 bills as compared to 134 and 51 bills passed by 13th and 12th National Assembly during their five-year terms, respectively, stated a report of the Free and Fair Election Network on Friday.
The House approved several important pieces of legislation, including five constitutional amendments during 56 sessions comprising 495 sittings, that provided for setting up military courts for an initial period of two years and their subsequent extension for another two years, reallocation of NA seats among federating units on the basis of fresh census results, electoral reforms and the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Likewise, The Elections Act, 2017, which reformed and consolidated the erstwhile eight separate election laws of the country, also saw light of the day during the term of the 14th Assembly.
Other important government legislations included reforms in the criminal justice system providing for compensation of litigation costs, institutionalisation of alternate dispute resolution mechanisms, witnesses’ protection and expeditious disposal of law suits.
The House also legislated for the right to information, whistleblowers’ protection, climate change and institutional reforms. In addition to the legislation, the House adopted 209 resolutions making recommendations to the government on the issues concerning foreign affairs, economy, internal security, education, health and others.
Keeping tradition set by the previous Assembly alive, the House passed 23 private members’ bills as well. Overall 237 private members’ bills were introduced in the lower house. Among the parliamentary parties, MQM lawmakers were most keen towards introducing the private members’ legislation as they sponsored nearly one-third (75) bills during the reporting period.
Private lawmakers of the ruling party, PML-N sponsored 53 bills, PPPP lawmakers 33 and PTI lawmakers 26. The lawmakers also kept a close vigil on the executive by raising 13,912 questions, moving 533 calling attention notices, and holding discussions on 45 motions under Rule 259.
During the reporting period, 194 lawmakers of 16 parliamentary parties, including 56 women and 138 men, exercised their right to ask questions on the floor of the house. Women lawmakers asked 7,909 (57%) questions while men 6,003 (43%) questions. The government replied to 10,926 (79%) out of 13,912 questions while 2,977 (21%) questions remained unaddressed.
Of 533 CANs submitted during the last five years, the house took up 424 (80%) of them during proceedings and sought government response on issues of public importance. However, the house showed a dismal performance in taking up motions under Rule 259 as only 45 out of 329 motions came under discussion during the term.
All of the government motions except one were discussed while only 20 private motions were taken up for discussion.
The 14th National Assembly also passed 18 amendments to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business by introducing some meaningful reforms. The composition of the Public Accounts Committee was changed to give representation to the Senate making it more powerful to oversight the financial discipline of the executive.
In a historic first, the previous assembly amended the Rules of Procedure allowing standing committees to scrutinise ministerial budgetary proposals before their inclusion in the federal budget and make recommendations. Further strengthening parliamentary role in budget-making, the 14th Assembly bound government ministries to inform the standing committees about incorporation of their recommendations in the final budgetary proposals.
The report further discussed the most ‘active’ members and noted Nikhat Shakeel of MQM to have sponsored most bills, Asiya Naz of PML-N raised most CANs, Muzammil Qureshi of MQM asked the most questions, Sahibzada Tariqullah of JI sponsored most resolutions, while Sher Akbar of JI submitted maximum Motions under Rule 259
Furthermore, during 306 of the 342 lawmakers actively participated in the House. However, the lawmakers’ attendance showed a declining trend over the period of five years with annual average attendance falling from 222 (65%) legislators per sitting during first year to 189 (55%) lawmakers per sitting during the last year.
The outgoing Assembly was also unique in terms of electing its Speaker and Leader of House. The House had to choose the Speaker and the Leaders of the House twice during its five-year term. The re-election to the office of the Speaker was necessitated by the de-seating of Speaker Ayaz Sadiq by an election tribunal which had declared his election as the MNA null and void and ordered re-poll in his constituency NA-122.
Following his re-election to the House, he became the only parliamentarian having been chosen as the Speaker twice during a single term of the Assembly. The re-election to the office of the Prime Minister took place due to the disqualification of former Premier Nawaz Sharif from holding public office by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in July 2017.
Moreover, the House also witnessed the address by the Presidents of China, Turkey and Indonesia to the Joint Sessions of both Houses of the Parliament.