Despite adopting a unanimous resolution to initiate debate on the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi and Quetta, only 14 per cent members engaged in the discussion during the last session of the National Assembly.
Only three female and 44 male members took part in the debate and expressed their concern over the rising incidents of lawlessness witnessed in the provincial capitals, according to a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) report on the 23rd session of the National Assembly. The House adopted a unanimous resolution to set up an all parties parliamentary committee to probe into incidents of violence in Karachi and Quetta. The interior minister, assured the House that the committee would present its report in a month. Though the session was primarily called to dispose of the government’s agenda, the House decided to debate the agenda introduced by an opposition member.
Out of the 47 members who participated in the debate, 13 belong to PML-N, 11 to PPP, seven are affiliated with the MQM and six were independents. There were just four ANP members, two of the MMAP, one member of PPP-S. However, they did not give any suggestions in writing on how to curb the violence. The National Assembly met for 29 hours and 16 minutes during 10 sittings. On average every sitting lasted for two hours and 16 minutes. Similarly, on average every sitting started 51 minutes behind schedule. This month has the distinction of witnessing the shortest sitting which lasted eight minutes on August 6 as well as the longest which went on for four hours and 41 minutes on August 1.
While half the session was taken up by the debate on law and order, more than one-fifth or 287 minutes of the session was consumed by speeches by members and rejoinders from the treasury on points of order, but none attracted the Speaker’s mandatory ruling. Members exchanged arguments about issues including the business of the House and the prevailing energy crisis, according to FAFEN. The PM attended six sittings. He was present for merely 18 per cent of session time. The Leader of the Opposition was absent during the entire session. Parliamentary leaders of the ANP and PML-F did not attend any of the sittings. The Speaker chaired proceedings for 35 per cent of the session time, while the Deputy Speaker presided over 30 per cent of session time. The remaining 35 per cent session time was chaired by the panel of chairpersons. Four per cent of session time was consumed by protests and walkouts by various parliamentary parties. The House witnessed seven walkouts during the session. The MMAP, MQM and PML-N walked out of the House thrice in protest over the law and order situation in Karachi and Quetta.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2011.
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