ISLAMABAD: While the first year of National Assembly was marred by absenteeism from Members National Assembly (MNAs), the start of second parliamentary year has seen the emergence of a new phenomena: non-participation of MNAs which manifested itself in the 2014-15 budget debate.
According to a monitoring report by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), during the budget session, which lasted for almost two weeks, as many as 165 members out of 342 or 48 per cent MNAs did not participate in the budget debate.
On the other hand, 176 members or 52 per cent members of the National Assembly participated in the debate.
The report identifies the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) at the top the list of parties whose MNAs did not participate in the debate, partly because of its numerical strength and partly because of the recurring phenomenon of absenteeism.
Only 59 MNAs belonging to the ruling party, which has a total strength of 190 in the National Assembly, contributed in the budget session through submission of agenda items and participation in debate. 131 PML-N MNAs, or 69 per cent of PML-N's strength in the lower house, was least bothered about the debate. The actual number of those who spoke about budgetary proposals was 43, the report added.
On the contrary, participation by the opposition parties in the budget session was quite high. 74 per cent of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) legislators participated. PPP, the second biggest party in the assembly with 46 seats, was vociferous. Meanwhile the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), third and fourth largest parties in the National Assembly, saw 97 per cent and 88 per cent member participation respectively.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) had 100 per cent participation with all four of its members in the National Assembly participating in the budget debate.
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Dividing the numbers along gender lines, female participation was higher with 64 per cent participation with 44 out of 69 women members in the National Assembly taking part.
In comparison, a smaller ratio of male MNAs participated in the budget debate. However, in real terms, more men participated given their population in the house with 132 of 272 members, or 49 per cent, participating.
The data also revealed that participation of MNAs selected on reserved seats was 65 per cent with 39 out of 69 members participating in the debate. The participation minority members was recorded at 50 per cent with five out of 10 minority members participating.
The report further noted that the members from the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) left their colleagues behind with 84 per cent participation or 36 out of 43. A mere 34 per cent, 63 out of 183 MNAs from Punjab, which has the highest number of seats in the house, took part in budget debate. Participation of MNAs from Balochistan and Sindh was at 59 per cent and 73 per cent respectively.
6 out of 10 or 55 per cent of representatives from FATA, while one out of two representatives from Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) participated in the budget sessions.