Assembly sessions witness low participation

Over half the legislative members failed to voice their constituencies' concerns during recent budget discussion

Muhammad Ilyas May 27, 2024
Punjab Assembly. PHOTO: FILE


In a democracy, voters from each constituency cast their ballots in favour of a particular leader in the hopes that upon securing a seat in the legislature, the candidate will voice their grievances at the state level however, in Pakistan’s core province, a resolution of the local population’s woes appears nowhere near in sight as the so-called representatives of the people choose to remain tight-lipped during crucial discussion sessions of the provincial legislature.

Recently, the Punjab Assembly held five discussion sessions for devising the budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year 2024-25. Despite the rules and regulations of the provincial legislature encouraging all members to actively engage in the discussions by bringing up the concerns of their respective constituencies, barely half of the 300 plus recently elected members were willing to participate during all five of the sessions, with most of the representatives indicating their indifference towards the budget debate either by remaining silent or by restlessly fidgeting throughout the proceedings, abdicating in the meanwhile on their primary duty of voicing the unheard suffering of their people.

“We elect our representatives and send them to the assembly so that they can propose specific suggestions for our area and get the plans of developmental projects approved. However, despite the public’s high expectations, these representatives do nothing after being elected, and five years pass in a similar manner, “lamented Imran Chaudhry, a local.

According to sources of the Express Tribune, out of a total of 356 members in the Punjab Assembly, only 45 per cent, that is 160 participated during the recent discussion session for the upcoming budget yet no political party took notice of the matter of their members’ non-participation.

Sharing his views on the matter, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Head of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) opined that the real issue lied in the politics at play within the parties, as a result of which only MPA’s favouring the leadership were allowed to speak. “This is why we see that many members speak very little during assembly sessions or send their questions in writing. Most members simply come to the assembly and mark their attendance, which completes their official duties. By marking attendance, they receive traveling and daily allowances. MPA’s are elected by the public to resolve their problems and participate in legislation for their convenience. However, the importance of the members in the assembly is mostly recognized only when they have to approve a bill or budget through voting,” expressed Mehboob.

Agreeing with Mehboob, opposition member, Ahmad Khan Bhachar urged all members of the Punjab Assembly to be vocal about public issues and actively voice the concerns of their constituencies during the sessions. “However, if a member chooses not to speak, they cannot be forced to say something,” he added.

On the contrary, Hina Pervaiz Butt from PML-N maintained that almost all members, including women were raising their voice in the Parliament in a vigorous manner. "In the Punjab Assembly however, many members elected this time are first time elects hence they are unaware of the rules of the assembly, and are unable to participate actively,” she explained.


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