Major upheavals across the country’s political landscape, especially the prime minister’s conviction in the contempt case, overshadowed the budget debate in the upper house as only 21 senators – less than one-fourth of the total membership of 104 – took part in the crucial exercise.
A preliminary report released by the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) stated that under Article 73 of the Constitution, the Senate sends its recommendations on the budget to the National Assembly within 14 days of its announcement. The Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue, Planning and Development presented in the house 145 recommendations, which were adopted during the Senate’s last sitting.
According to the report, 29% (four out of 14) senators of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N); 15% (six out of 41) of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP); 40% (two out of five) senators of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quiad (PML-Q); 29% (two out of seven) of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM); 25% (three out of 12) of the Awami National Party (ANP), and 29% (two out of seven) of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl Rehman (JUIF) took part in the debate on budgetary proposals.
One senator each of the Pakistan Muslim League–Functional (PML-F) and Balochistan National Party–Awami (BNP-A) also marked their presence by expressing their views on the budget.
The 21 out of the 104 senators consumed almost three-fourth of the session time on debating budget during the eight sittings — with the debate on budget lasting a mere 10 hours and 20 minutes in total out of the total.
None of the four senators belonging to minorities, who made it to the upper house after the passage of the 18th Amendment, took part in the budget debate. Similarly, 12 independents also remained quiet. Almost one-fourth (24%) of the parliamentarians who took part in the debate on budget proposals were women, who constitute 16% of the Senate’s membership. About 76% of the parliamentarians involved in the budget debate were men, who represent approximately 83% of the total membership.
The report revealed that the leader of the opposition was only present during four of the eight sittings. It noted that on average, only 19 legislators were present at the start of each sitting and 32 at the end. A total of 17 points of order consumed eight per cent of the session time.
The report contended: “Business of parliament can only be meaningful with the active and responsible participation of its Members. The absence of parliamentary leaders from the upper house during the budget session was noticeable.”
Published In The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2012.