The National Assembly’s sitting on Monday was one of the briefest in the country’s parliamentary history as the chair adjourned the session just after the recitation from the Holy Quran and offering of Fateha for veteran politician Mumtaz Ali Bhutto.
Of the 342 members of the lower house, only 12 lawmakers were present in the assembly hall apart from Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan, PML-N’s Murtaza Javed Abbasi, PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar and Agha Rafi Ullah and JI’s Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali.
No minister was present in the assembly when the sitting began and Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri adjourned the session till July 30 as if in haste before anyone could point out lack of quorum.
According to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly 2007, if at any time during a sitting, attention of the chair is drawn to the fact that less than one-fourth of the total membership of the assembly is present, he shall either suspend the business until at least one-fourth of such membership is present, or cause the bells to be rung for five minutes.
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The rules state that if no quorum is available even on resumption of the proceedings after suspension or, when the bells stop ringing, the speaker shall adjourn the sitting for the next working day provided that the suspension of the business of the sitting shall not be for more than one hour.
Condemning this “joke” with the parliamentary business, Abbasi – who is also PML-N chief whip – said the federal government called the parliamentary sitting only to complete the requisite number of parliamentary days.
“There is an army of ministers [in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet] but none of them attended the sitting today. No other party has ever insulted the parliament in this manner,” he said.
He said the opposition had asked the government not to call a parliamentary sitting on Monday [a day before the start of holidays for Eidul Azha] but the government did not accept that proposal.
“A parliamentary session costs millions of rupees to the exchequer but no business is conducted. Nothing happened in the sitting today. If you had called a session, you should at least have allowed some proceeding on Question Hour and Point of Order,” he said.
According to sources, the government convened the National Assembly sitting on Monday in order to complete the requisite number of “working days” in this parliamentary year.
It is mandatory for the lower house of parliament to remain in session for at least 130 "working days". The sittings include three joint sittings of the two houses of parliament. Under the rules, the two days sandwiched between two working days are also counted as the session days.
Rule 47 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly 2012 states that there shall be at least three sessions of the assembly every year.
“[Moreover] not more than 120 days shall intervene between the last sitting of the assembly in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session: provided that the assembly shall meet for not less than one hundred and thirty working days in each parliamentary year,” it says.
Meanwhile, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser on Monday ordered authorities to conduct a third party audit to ascertain the production cost of tobacco. The speaker was chairing a meeting of the NA Special Committee on Agricultural Products.
The Ministry of Security additional secretary opposed the idea of a third party audit. However, the speaker noted that to make laws, amend laws and implement laws in the job of the parliament.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM HASEEB HANIF)
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