Of the 48 sittings of the Sindh Assembly from November 2011 and May 2012, the Sindh chief minister, who is the leader of the provincial legislature, bothered to attend only 15 sessions. Not only the chief minister, around 72 per cent of the lawmakers also preferred to stay away from the House, where proceedings started 77 minutes late on average.
These were among a list of many interesting observations stated in the parliament watch report issued by non-governmental organisation Free And Fair Election Network (FAFEN) on Saturday. At numerous sessions, the Sindh Assembly noticeably lacked quorum (presence of at least one-fourth or 42 assembly members) but it was mostly not pointed out to the speaker. The average time of each sitting was two hours and 18 minutes, during which women parliamentarians participated more actively in discussion than their counterparts.
While the assembly’s most important function is to legislate, the Sindh Assembly passed 14 out of the 24 bills presented by the government but not a single “private member bill” was passed - even though four important bills appeared on the agenda. Forty resolutions moved by members of different political parties were also adopted.
Similarly, none of the 30 private motions to debate on law and order, water shortage, tribal clashes, power breakdowns, education and health issues were taken up. The proposals were moved by MPAs on Tuesdays, which is fixed for the members to discuss their issues. But all their pleas were turned down.
Points of order
A point of order relates to the interpretation or enforcement of parliament rules. Usually the legislators use the time to speak on issues not related to the procedures of Sindh Assembly. The opportunity was used to deliver long political speeches. From November 2011 to May this year, 77 lawmakers raised 398 points of order, consuming almost 17 hours (15%) of the sessions’ time. However, none of them attracted the chair’s formal ruling.
Question & answer
The question hour provides the house members, especially the opposition, an opportunity to question the government or other members on various issues.
During the time period monitored, around 532 starred (requiring oral answers) questions were asked from different departments but only 278 were actually taken up. The women showed more interest and asked 354 questions against the 182 raised by their counterparts. About half of the 30 women members of the House of 167 submitted questions. Each female member asked 11 questions on average. The most number of questions (36) were directed at the fisheries ministry, following by the works and services, irrigation, industries, jails, education, transport, and excise and taxation departments. The Katchi Abadis department was only asked one question; public health department was asked on three counts; while the youth affairs and the revenue departments were asked four questions each.
The legislators are to comply with a certain standard of behaviour. Some actions are prohibited under the assembly rules ranging from gossiping and making inflammatory comments. Moving and walking around, using offensive expressions, eating and drinking and delivering written speeches without the speaker’s permission are common in the Sindh Assembly, the report further pointed out.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2012.