File photo of National Assembly session in Islamabad.

NA session to be convened next week

Parliamentary affairs ministry to send a summary to president today

Saqib Virk May 05, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Following much deliberation between the government and the opposition, it has finally been decided to convene a session of the National Assembly on May 11 – nearly two months after both the houses of parliament went into recess to ensure social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The parliamentary affairs ministry will send a summary to the president on Wednesday (today) for convening the session, which will solely focus on the Covid-19 situation in the country.

With the exception of the press gallery, all other galleries will remain closed as part of the precautionary measures against Covid-19.

There will be no Question Hour, call-attention notices of adjournment and privilege motions during the proceedings and quorum would not be pointed out either.

The government and the opposition agreed on the modalities for convening a session during a virtual meeting of a NA committee chaired by National Food Security Minister Syed Fakhar Imam on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, PML-N’s Khawaja Asif, PPP’s Naveed Qamar as other members of the ruling PTI and opposition parties participated in the meeting.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Qureshi said the session would start from next week and held on alternate days.

Dr Babar Awan, the PM’s aide on parliamentary affairs, said in a video message that the focus of the debate and speeches in the assembly would only be the coronavirus outbreak.

Sources said social distancing would be ensured during the session and a standard operating procedure (SOP) would be formulated for the arrival of lawmakers at the house.

After the government formally announced that the session would be convened, the opposition has withdrawn its requisition submitted to the NA secretariat for this purpose.

The NA committee has requested the parliamentary leaders of political parties to decide about the attendance of their members themselves.

A suggestion was also floated that parliamentarians and the NA secretariat staff be tested for coronavirus before the session.

Other proposals included not allowing any visitors to the parliament house and lodges. It was also suggested that minister bring along only one member of their staff.

It was decided that special flights from Karachi and Quetta would be requested to bring lawmakers from those cities to Islamabad to attend the session.

The committee will present its recommendations to the NA speaker so that he could issue the required guidelines.

On April 29, the parliamentary leaders of political parties while participating in a virtual meeting of the NA committee had ruled out holding a virtual session of the assembly.

The government had earlier tried to persuade the opposition parties to agree to a virtual session of the assembly, but the latter turned down the proposal.

They argued that as there was no provision in the rules of the assembly for a virtual session so a physical one should be convened to take up pertinent issues concerning public at large besides important legislation.

The NA committee on virtual sessions was formed by the speaker with the mandate to suggest amendments in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the National Assembly 2007, if any, for holding a virtual session of the National Assembly during the coronavirus pandemic.


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